Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said those who want to threaten India’s territorial integrity should be worried about its new capability after the first batch of five Rafale fighter jets from France landed in Ambala. The Rafale fighter jets were escorted by two Sukhoi Su-30MKI jets as they entered India’s airspace.
Singh said that the touchdown of Rafale jets in India marked the beginning of a new era in India’s military history. “These multirole aircrafts will revolutionise the capabilities of the IAF,” he said. “I would like to add, if [there] is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity.”
The defence minister said the aircraft has a very good flying performance and its weapons, radar and other sensors, and Electronic Warfare capabilities are among the best in the world. “Its arrival in India will make the IAF much stronger to deter any threat that may be posed on our country,” Singh added.
The Rafale jets are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in over two decades. It comes four years after the Centre signed a deal with France for a total of 36 units, as part of a Rs 59,000-crore agreement. The deal had become a major political issue during the Lok Sabha election campaign last year. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of treason and corruption multiple times, and alleged that he had acted as a middleman for industrialist Anil Ambani in the deal.
However, Singh on Wednesday said the “baseless allegations against this procurement have already been answered and settled”, and added that the jets were purchased only after they met the operational requirements of the air force.
“The Rafale jets were purchased only because Modi took the right decision to get these aircraft through an Inter-Governmental Agreement with France, after the long pending procurement case for them could not progress,” Singh added. “I thank him for his courage and decisiveness.”
He also thanked the French government, Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, and other French companies involved in “timely delivery” of the aircraft and its weapons despite the severe restrictions posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Singh further congratulated the IAF on bringing the aircraft from France. “I am extremely happy that IAF’s combat capability has got a timely boost,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra welcomed the landing of the fighter jets with a tweet in Sanskrit. “There is no greater blessing than protecting the nation, protecting the nation is a virtuous deed and protecting the nation is the best Yagna,” a rough translation of the tweet said. “We have the capacity to touch the sky.”
Meanwhile, security was tightened near the Ambala airbase, located around 200 km from the border with Pakistan. Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which prohibits the gathering of four or more people, was imposed in four nearby villages, reported News18.
Visuals posted by the Air Force on Tuesday showed the jets refuelling from a French tanker at a height of 30,000 feet. The jets made a stopover in Al Dhafra in the UAE.
The fleet comprises three single seater and two twin seater aircrafts. They will be inducted into the IAF as part of its No. 17 Squadron, also known as the ‘’Golden Arrows’’, and will be stationed at the Ambala air base.
Delivery of the Rafale jets had officially started in October when the first jet was handed over to the IAF during Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to France. However, the planes remained in France for training of the pilots and mechanics. All the 36 jets are to be delivered by 2022.