Indian Air Force

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Bird hits

Indian puppies from Karnataka

Deepak Lavania, February 15, 2021: The Times of India

In a first, IAF inducts desi pups from Karnataka to curb bird-hit cases

AGRA: Indian Air Force (IAF) has for the first time inducted the Mudhol Hound, a purebred Indian breed of sight hound from Karnataka, to chase away birds and animals which stray on runways, hampering flights and causing risk of bird-hits.

Four Mudhol hound puppies, including two females, were brought to the Agra airbase on Sunday. These were handed over to the IAF on Friday by deputy chief minister of Karnataka Govind M Karajol on behalf of the Canine Research and Information Centre (CRIC) in Bagalkot district of Karnataka.

CRIC head Mahesh Akashi told TOI, “Mudhol hounds have earned the reputation of being fiercely loyal to their owners and are excellent hunting dogs. The breed is best known for its stamina, sharpness and agility. The services of the hounds are invaluable.”

These agile all-weather dogs that enjoy good health and require minimum grooming have already been recruited by the Indian Army, CRPF, CISF, BSF, SSB, ITBP and the police departments of a few states.

Known predominantly for their hunting and chasing skills, Mudhol hounds were bred by Ghorpade kings of Mudhol (now in Bagalkot in North Karnataka) in the 1920s, by crossing Persian and Turkish breeds with local dogs.

The training of these Karnataka-origin hunting hounds first started in 2016 by the Army’s Remount and Veterinary Corps (RVC) centre in Meerut.

Akashi said, “A few weeks ago, IAF officials wrote to us placing an order for seven puppies. After completing all the formalities, we have handed over four Mudhol hounds, aged around three months to the IAF officials of Agra Air Force station. Another three puppies will be handed over after six months as per an agreement.”

He said bird-hits are a big problem at several airbases. These hounds will be trained by experts to scare away the birds.

A senior IAF officer said, “To address the problem of ground-dwelling birds such as lapwings and larks, IAF planned dog walking module. IAF chose to use a domestic breed as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Taking a cue from PM’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ wherein he had praised this breed, we decided to try the Mudhol hound. The qualities and temperament of this native breed were found suitable for bird scaring. Air Force station here was selected as a pilot project. Depending on the success of the project, it will be extended to other stations.”

Combat aircraft

2020: strength of combat aircraft squadrons increased by 20%

January 30, 2020: Business Standard

In a major restructuring to boost its war-fighting units, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has enhanced the strength of its combat aircraft squadrons by 20 per cent to help them prepare better for operational tasks.

"More than 2,000 air warriors and technicians have been provided to the fighter squadrons in the last few months. These personnel have been drawn from air headquarters and command headquarters where they were not performing technical duties," top IAF sources told ANI.

With more number of people available in the fighter squadrons, they would help in easing the workload on the existing personnel and also help in enhancing the safety in flying operations, they said.

The restructuring in the service is being monitored by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria.

The number of people who have been taken out from headquarters and non-operational tasks is over 2,000.

Bhadauria took over as the Chief of Air Staff on October 1, last year.

Apart from restructuring in the headquarters, the Air Force has also implemented strict rules in appointment of support staff for flag officers in service.

The Indian Air Force has been strengthening its fighting capabilities in the last one year post-Balakot operations as it had acquired weapons including air to air missiles and air to ground weapon systems such as the Spice 2000 bombs with greater destruction capabilities and Strum Ataka anti-tank guided missiles.

The Air Force was also the top spender among the three services in emergency powers given for the acquisition of weapons and spares in the aftermath of the Balakot aerial strikes.

The Air Force strength also received a major boost after the induction of its Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft squadron in southern India at Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and is likely to get further strengthened with induction of another Tejas combat aircraft squadron in Sulur.

Funds, shortage of


Rajat Pandit, Funds crunch slowly crippling air force, October 20, 2018: The Times of India

Acquisitions, Operational Preparedness Hit

A severe fund crunch is slowly but steadily impacting the operational preparedness of the IAF, forcing it to put on hold acquisitions of helicopters, “smart bombs” and missiles as well as repair of runways in crucial airbases on both the western and eastern fronts.

Sources said several deals, including the ones for 48 more Russian Mi-17 V5 medium-lift helicopters (Rs 6,900 crore) and 32 additional British Hawk advanced jet trainers (Rs 3,500 crore), have been put on the back-burner due to lack of funds. “Similar is the case for Russian laser-guided bombs and other precision-guided munitions,” said a source.

More alarmingly, the paucity of funds has also adversely hit the upgrade of infrastructure and runways in airbases around the country, with at least three of them being under the Shillong-based Eastern Air Command at a time when China continues to upgrade its military aviation set-up in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

“Apartfrom having 14 major airfields, advanced landing grounds and heli-pads in TAR, China is constructing underground hangers and parking bays for its fighters by digging tunnels into mountains at some of them,” said another source.

On the western front, the IAF has already been taken to court by contractors involved in runway resurfacing works at Awantipur (J&K) and Chandigarh stations due to non-payment of outstanding bills. “Ongoing work at stations like Sirsa and Bakshi-ka-Talab (Lucknow), as also the IAF academy at Hyderabad, may suffer due to the same reasons,” said another source.

While the Rafales are slated for induction in 2019-2022, the S-400s are to be delivered in the 2020-2023 timeframe. Though the money for these two “critical operational inductions” will be paid in instalments, it has virtually emptied out the already curtailed IAF budget.

The IAF had asked for Rs 77,695 crore under the capital (modernisation etc) outlay in the 2018-2019 budget, but got only Rs 35,770 crore. Under the revenue (day-to-day operating costs, salaries etc) head, it got Rs 28,821 crore instead of the Rs 35,261 crore demanded. The story is similar for the Army and Navy, which got just 60% and 56% of their projected requirements under the capital head.

Take the over 12-lakh strong Army, for instance. The force is saddled with 68% “vintage” weaponry, 24% “current” and only 8% “state-of-the-art” equipment. It had asked for Rs 44,573 crore under the capital head but got only Rs 26,816 crore.

The allocated funds are not enough to even pay for “committed liabilities or installments” of earlier deals, leaving virtually nothing for new modernization projects.

2019/ high expenses and ownership costs

Indian Air Force:
Budget expenses;
Revenue expenditure for fuel and maintenance;
High ownership costs, presumably in 2019
From: Dinakar Peri, IAF chief flags delays in manufacture of equipment, February 1, 2019: The Hindu

See graphic:

Indian Air Force- budget expenses, revenue expenditure for fuel and maintenance, high ownership costs, presumably in 2019

Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS)


Anchit Gupta, May 25, 2023: The Times of India

Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal became the first woman to be honoured with the Yudh Seva Medal for her role as a fighter controller at a Signal unit in the post-Balakot skirmish of 2019. Recently, Indian Air Force monitored in real time as a PIA airliner strayed across the international border due to bad weather. Common to both these seemingly unconnected events is the role played by the indigenously designed Integrated Air Command and Control System (IACCS), which gave IAF a distinct edge over Pakistan Air Force.

IAF graduated from a support role to the army when it inducted the Spitfire in No 8 Squadron for dedicated air defence. However, the other key element – radars – was deemed too advanced and “unnecessary” for IAF, leading the British Royal Air Force to leave behind damaged and sabotaged equipment. After Independence, IAF decided to recall the released radar tradesmen to rebuild its radar capability. A mobile radar set salvaged from sabotaged equipment was christened No 1 Radar Unit and moved to Palam, becoming the first-ever Signal Unit in IAF. By 1949, six more sets were operational, serving predominantly as early warning radars.

In 1949, IAF ordered five static Sector Operations Centres (SOC) from Marconi UK, intending to replicate the British hub and spoke air defence setup. The first SOC was established in Delhi in 1954. By 1962, IAF had set up five SOCs at Delhi, Ambala, Jodhpur, Barrackpore and Bombay. IAF’s Air Defence Ground Environment System (ADGES) philosophy seems to have been to protect Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta and have protection along the western boundary via SOCs at Ambala and Jodhpur.

However, the insufficient number of radars did not provide any defence in depth. Vital areas, except Delhi, were covered with a maximum of 80-170 km of early warning, giving fighter aircraft less time to react. The consequent misplaced fear of a reprisal on major cities during the 1962 war led to IAF not being used in an offensive role. This miscalculation changed the course of the 1962 war but paved the way for more significant changes. Immediately after the war, modern equipment was acquired from the US and USSR.

Western nations also conducted “Exercise – Shiksha” in India in November 1963, which included training as well as two mobile radar units. This led to IAF contracting six US-made Star Sapphire radars. Initially, the installation was overseen by American engineers, but assistance was withdrawn at the onset of the 1965 war, leaving the installation incomplete. Employing remarkable ingenuity, technical officers of IAF installed the remaining systems without support from manufacturers.

The USSR also agreed to provide SA-2 surface-to-air missiles and the P-30 radar. SA-2 units were deployed in Chandigarh, Ambala, Calcutta, Delhi and Baroda, while twelve P-30 radars were stationed nationwide. However, IAF had only operationalised two P-30s and one Star Sapphire when the 1965 war broke out. 230 SU at Amritsar was one of the two P-30s operational and was to play a gallant role in both wars with Pakistan. At the top of the Pakistan Air Force’s target list, it saw 29 missions being launched against it, but the “Fish Oil” radar continued churning. The credit for the first air-to-air kill of free India on September 3, 1965, must also be shared with 230 SU, which directed the pilots through the melee. With the setting up of these radars, the era of high-altitude bombing raids was a thing of the past.

The P-30s and Star Sapphire were fully operational two years after the 1965 war, but the 1971 war would bring significantly more action. The high point was when 253 SU guided IAF pilots during the famous Boyra Battle. Flt Lt KB Bagchi, as the interception director, on November 22, 1971, observed on his radar scope one blip close to Jessore heading inbound and scrambled four Gnats from Dum Dum airport. This engagement saw IAF drawing first blood of the war.

In the decades ahead, IAF continued to improve, even if only incrementally. The paradigm change happened in 2010. On September 14, 2010, IAF launched the Air Force Network (AFNET), replacing its old communication network which used the tropo-scatter technology of the 1950s with a dedicated fibre-optic wide area network that offers encrypted, secure bandwidth.

Building on the AFNET backbone, IAF rolled out the Integrated Air Command and Control System or IACCS for automated control and monitoring of air operations by linking real-time feeds from defence and civil sensors throughout the country. The first amongst the armed forces and established under a two-phase programme, this project is representative of the tremendous teamwork by Bharat Electronics Limited and IAF. To ensure all-weather surveillance, IAF further ordered indigenously built radars to augment the IACCS feed that are now in advanced stages of deployment along critical regions.

The integration of IACCS with AWACS, UAVs and surface-to-air missiles added to the improved ability to launch fighter aircraft against hostile targets promptly, remarkably changing India’s battle readiness. Standing out, though, is the 75-year-old journey of technical ingenuity that led us from a salvaged radar set to the formidable IACCS. The writer is an aviation historian

Landing on highways

2016: 21 highway stretches identified

Dipak Dash, IAF picks 21 highway sections for landings, Oct 18 2016 : The Times of India

21 highway stretches have been identified for use in aircraft operations

Indian Air Force (IAF) has identified 21 highway stretches across the country which can be used for aircraft operation during “operational contingencies“ and natural disaster for rescue. Some of the stretches are close to the India-Pakistan border in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Some of these also fall in border states of Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. These stretches have been identified after a “detailed study“ by the IAF keeping in mind the minimum requirement for landing and take off of fighter and other aircraft in case of emergencies.

TOI in November 2015 had first reported how IAF had asked National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to share the details of its plans to upgrade the existing highways or build new ones so that necessary features can be incorporated to make certain portions function as “runways“ and allow for both landings and take-offs.

Sources said some of the stretches that have been shortlisted for such purpose are in Jaisalmer region in Rajasthan and Dwarka in Gujarat.

Manufacture of defence equipment

2019/ delays in domestic development and manufacture of defence equipment

Dinakar Peri, February 1, 2019: The Hindu

“In combat, there is no silver medal. You win or you lose”

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has not shifted any goal posts and is fully committed to indigenisation, Air Chief Marshal (ACM) BS Dhanoa said while flagging delays in domestic development and manufacture of defence equipment. Air power, he said, was a expensive proposition.

“IAF has not shifted any goal posts as alleged. The development has taken such an incredibly long time that armament and technology has gone obsolete… I as the service chief can make concessions to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Will the enemy make concessions to me when I go and meet the enemy?” said ACM Dhanoa at the 10th Jumbo Majumdar international lecture organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies. “In combat, there is no silver medal. Either you win or you lose.”

His comments come in the backdrop of recent reports that IAF has been changing parameters of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas adding to the delay in development. The IAF has contracted for 40 LCA Mk-I jets, issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) for 83 LCA Mk-IA variants and committed to procure 12 squadrons of LCA Mk-II and eventually the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

ACM Dhanoa said a crucial contribution to the success of indigenisation was also the sacrifice of IAF’s pilots in testing these aircraft to battle worthy standards. “We have lost 17 pilots and engineers in air accidents during testing and evaluation of the indigenous Marut, Kiran, Ajeet, Saras and early warning prototype aircraft,” he said. Air power would remain a major player in future conflicts, he stated. Investment in air power was an expensive proposition. For instance, each Su-30 costs ₹417 crores. Even the LCA Mk I costs ₹191 crores.

IAF chief flags delays in manufacture of equipment There had to be a mix high, medium and low technology, ACM Dhanoa said. “It’s the high end fighters and other equipment that help you shape the air battle for others to be able to carry out their task.” The Rafale jets and the S-400 air defence systems fit in this, he observed.

ACM Dhanoa said that as on date, the backlog with HAL due to long overhaul cycle and delays in upgradation was approximately of one squadron Jaguars, nearly two squadrons of Su-30MKI and one squadron Mirage-2000 jets.

Further, production of Su-30 is delayed by over two years and LCA production commitment by over six years. “To make up for losses HAL has to play a key role to step up manufacture and overhaul,” he said. He also highlighted that the IAF had maintained the Air Staff Quality Requirements (ASQR) of the first 20 LCA Mk I at standards issued in 1985.

ACM Dhanoa said that to overcome production delays and the falling number of fighter squadrons emergency purchases had to be made.

Personnel issues

Honorary ranks in the Air Force

Sachin to be made honorary IAF group captain

Times of India

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force is set to bestow the honorary rank of a Group Captain on cricketing great Sachin Tendulkar in recognition of his outstanding achievements as a sportsperson.

Honorary ranks in the Air Force are traditionally given to people who have made outstanding achievements at the national level, especially those linked to the aviation sector. Among those who have been given similar honorary ranks in Air Force are J R D Tata and Vijayapat Singhania. Both Tata and Singhania were awarded the honorary ranks of Air Commodore.

A senior Air Force officer said the IAF headquarters has decided to give Tendulkar the honorary rank of Group Captain. “We are awaiting the government’s approval,” he said. Once the proposal is approved, Tendulkar would be formally accepted as a member of the Air Force family, but he would have no official responsibilities with the IAF.

The senior IAF officer said several eminent persons of national standing have been given the honorary rank over the years. Inducting such leaders also helps in adding to the morale of the force, he said.

Indian military has a tradition of inducting outstanding individuals as honorary officers into its ranks. Recently, cricketer Kapil Dev and southern film star Mohanlal were inducted as honourary Lieutenant Colonels in the Territorial Army.

Tendulkar’s selection by the IAF is a slight departure from Air Force’s tradition. Usually, it has given the honorary rank to people who have had some role in the aviation sector. “But there is no such hard and fast rule,” the officer said.

J R D Tata had obtained the first pilot licence issued in India and later started Air India. Singhania, chairman emeritus of the Raymond group, holds several world records in hot air balloon and microlight flying.


Muslim men can not grow beard in IAF: SC

The Times of India, Dec 16 2016

AmitAnand Choudhary


A Muslim cannot grow a beard after joining the IAF as discipline, uniformity and cohesiveness in the armed forces cannot be sacrificed for religious beliefs which clash with rules of a defence force, the Supreme Court ruled in December 2016.

A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices D Y Chandrachud and L Nageswara Rao said the defence forces were required to maintain a secular character as people from different faiths and religions join them to serve the nation.Regulations and policies on personal appearance are not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs.

The SC said growing a beard was not a fundamental part of Islam and upheld the government policy while dismissing the plea of two Muslim IAF officials seeking the court's direction to quash the policy.

The court did consider the case of a community like the Sikhs and noted, “No material has been produced before this court to indicate that the appellant professes a religious belief that would bring him within the ambit of Regulation 425(b) which applies to personnel whose religion prohibits the cutting off of hair or shaving the face of its members.

Strength in Indian Armed Forces, officers and soldiers


Strength and shortfall in Indian Armed Forces, officers and soldiers; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, August 17, 2016

See graphic:

Strength and shortfall in Indian Armed Forces, officers and soldiers

Women in the IAF

Permanent commission to three women officers

From the archives of The Times of India

IAF women officers win another job battle in HC TIMES NEWS NETWORK New Delhi: The Centre was directed by the Delhi HC on Tuesday to grant permanent commission to three women officers, who are on short service commission (SSC) with the Indian Air Force. Allowing a joint contempt plea by Wing Commander Rekha Singh and Squadron leaders Seema Nandan and Seema Dahiya against the government for non-compliance of the court’s earlier order, Justice Vipin Sanghi directed the defence ministry to grant permanent commission to them in six weeks on the basis of government’s policy in November, 2010. The court also directed the ministry to file a compliance report by May 24. The petitioners’ lawyer argued that one of the court’s benches had directed the government to frame a policy and grant permanent commission to women officers at par with their male colleagues. The lawyer submitted that the ministry had on November 19, 2010framed a policy but her clients were not given the benefit.

1990s- 2018

Rajat Pandit, Aeromedical Issues Part Of Analysis, August 6, 2018: The Times of India

Women in Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy- Combat role
From: August 6, 2018: The Times of India

Having inducted six women into its fighter flying stream on an ‘experimental basis’, who will be followed by a few others if found suitable, the IAF is now getting set to conduct a thorough analysis of ‘employability’ of women in its future combat philosophies and policies.

IAF sources said the ‘experimental scheme’ to induct women as fighter pilots, which will be reviewed in December 2020 after being launched in December 2015, will be examined on several fronts before a decision is taken on whether to extend it or not for the long term.

This comes soon after Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi became the first-ever Indian woman to fly a MiG-21 ‘Bison’ jet alone in February, which was followed by a similar solo sortie by her colleague Bhawana Kanth. They still have a year to go before they become fully fledged fighter pilots ready for combat missions.

Mohana Singh, the third woman from the first batch, will graduate to supersonic fighters after she completes her flying syllabus on Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJT). The other three from subsequent batches — Pratibha Poonia, Shivangi Singh and Meghana Shanbough — are at different stages of their AJT training to learn the basics of the arduous and dangerous art of combat flying.

“Women are selected as fighter pilot trainees, like their male counterparts, only if they make the grade and volunteer for it. Data on their training, operational conversion and utilisation is being collated on a regular basis for analysis,” said a senior officer.

With it taking around Rs 15 crore to train a single fighter pilot, IAF had for long resisted inducting women in the combat stream because it felt it would disrupt “tight fighterflying schedules” if they got married and had children.

Consequently, the “impact of absence from active flying duties, whether for domestic or medical reasons, on the combat efficiency and readiness of fighter squadrons” will be one of the factors under consideration, said sources.

IAF will also study other reasons that may be considered ‘restrictive’ for women pilots, ranging from aeromedical issues, like performance under ‘high G-Force manoeuvres’, different physiological aspects and response to aviation stress, to ‘cockpit ergonomics and survival clothing’.

“The response of women candidates applying for fighter flying as a professional choice will also be assessed. Then, with the presence of women in fighter squadrons, the IAF will also consider the ‘cultural fit’ as well as the impact on unit functioning, if any,” said a source.

2012: Women fighter pilots

The Times of India, Jun 18 2016

Three gritty women will today give wings to the aspirations of hun dreds as they get inducted as the Indian Air Force's -and the country's -first ever women fighter pilots. Flight cadets Avani Cha turvedi of Madhya Pradesh, Mohana Singh of Rajasthan and Bhawana Kanth of Bihar, all in their early-20s, usher in a new chapter for the Indian defence forces, which have for long opposed the induction of women in combat roles.

For Mohana, whose father is a warrant officer in the IAF and grandfather served as a flight gunner at Aviation Research Centre, being a part of the defence forces was a foregone conclusion.

“I wanted to carry on the family legacy of serving the nation by being in defence and what better way than fighter-flying,“ she added.

With an aim to fly the best of the IAF's fighter aircraft, Mohana aspires to make her parents proud of her. “I dream of being a part of future combat missions, and fight for the nation when du ty calls,“ she added.

Mohana, Avani and Bhawana will be awarded the President's Commission as flying officers of the fighter combat stream by defence minister Manohar Parrikar at the Combined Graduation Parade at Air Force Academy , Dundigal, on the outskirts of Hyderabad. They will then be posted to either the Bidar or Kalaikunda airbase to undertake “transitional“ fighter training on the Hawks, which includes learning intensive combat manoeuvres and armament firing spread over a year to ensure the rookie pilots can handle highly-unforgiving old fighters like MiG-21s or relatively new multi-role ones like Sukhoi-30MKIs and Mirage-2000s.

Though the glass ceiling in the defence forces is now being gradually broken, the Army and Navy have no plans as of now to induct women into the infantry , armoured corps or artillery, nor allow them to serve on board warships. Even in the IAF, which has 94 women pilots flying its helicopters and transport aircraft, their entry into the fighter combat stream as short-service commission (SSC) officers has been done on an “experimental basis“ for just five years.


Pathankot Air Force Station

A brief history

The Times of India Jan 03 2016

Ajay Sura

Used For Deep Strikes Into Pak

Barely 40km from the Pakistan border the Pathankot Air Force station is one of the strate gically important forward airbases of India during war and peacetime.

The station is a defen sive airfield due its proximi ty to Pakistan and vital for tactically offensive oper ations of the IAF. It provides logistic support to J&K.

The Pathankot airbase along with the airfield at Amritsar provide an essen tial operational range for deep air raids into Pakistan It houses MiG-21 Bison fighter jets and MI-25 and MI-35 attack helicopters. Be sides this, it has Pechora surface-to-air missiles, oth er air defence missiles and surveillance radars. The station witnessed many at tacks during the wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971.

During the 1965 War, Pa kistan army's commandos had raided Pathankot air base and other forwards air bases, including Adampur and Halwara, in Punjab.

In 1971, Pakistan launched an air strike on Pathankot airbase and dam aged a portion of the run way. Though IAF veterans are happy at no loss to high value assets in Friday's at tack, they are of the view that such vital airbases, lo cated in operational areas should be guarded by the Army or by specialised forces.

Air Marshal Randhir Singh (retired), former commander of the South Western Air Command, said, “Air force is a technical force. Learning lessons from such attacks, the Centreshould ensure their security by specialised forces.“

Transport aircraft/cargo

2018: rapid airlift capability

December 19, 2018: The Times of India

The IAF on Tuesday checked its ‘rapid airlift capability’ by deploying 16 transport aircraft, like C-17 Globemaster-III, Ilyushin-76 and Antonov-32, in a single wave to forward areas in Jammu & Kashmir facing both Pakistan and China. The 16 planes airlifted a record 463 tonnes of load from Chandigarh airbase to airfields and drop zones in the Ladakh region, ranging from Kargil and Leh to Thoise and Fukche. ‘The entire wave was accomplished in little less than six hours. The WAC is entrusted with air maintenance of the entire northern region and airlifts close to 3,000 tonnes of load per month,’ an officer said


17 'Golden Arrows' Squadron

2019: Rejuvenated by Rafales

Rajat Pandit, Sep 10, 2019: The Times of India

With first Rafale to be delivered next month, IAF resurrects "Golden Arrows" Squadron

NEW DELHI: The IAF on Tuesday resurrected its 17 `Golden Arrows’ Squadron at Ambala ahead of the first Rafale fighter jet to be formally handed over to India in the presence of defence minister Rajnath Singh in France early next month. 

But the first four of the 36 multi-role Rafale jets, which were ordered under the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked in September 2016, will actually touch down in Ambala only in May next year after training of the “main” induction team of around 10 pilots, 10 flight engineers and 40 technicians in France. 
“The first Rafale was to be handed over this month but the date is now set to be October 8, which is IAF Day as well as Dusshera, due to scheduling issues. The ceremony in France will include the defence ministers from the two countries, along with top defence officials,” said an officer. 

The first 16 Rafales will be inducted into the 17 Squadron, which was commanded by IAF chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa during the Kargil conflict in 1999 and “number-plated” after its old MiG-21s retired in 2011, for the western front with Pakistan. The next 16 jets will be based at Hasimara (West Bengal) to cater for China, all of which are slated to be delivered in batches by April 2022, as was earlier reported by TOI. 

IAF chief BS Dhanoa at Ambala air base for Tuesday's event 

Senior IAF officers have repeatedly stressed – even during the political slugfest between Congress and BJP over the fighter deal in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections- that the Rafale fighter would prove to be a “gamechanger” + in air combat capabilities in the region because it could outgun any combat jet that China or Pakistan could deploy against India. 

The 13 India-Specific Enhancements (ISEs) or upgrade on the 36 jets will, however, become fully operational only by September-October 2022 because they will require another six months to undergo “software certification” after all of them have arrived in India. 

These ISEs, which have cost India around Euro 1.3 billion for their “non-recurring” design and development cost, range from radar enhancements, Israeli helmet-mounted displays and low-band jammers to towed decoy systems, and the engine capability for "cold start" from high-altitude regions. 

India has already paid over Rs 34,000 crore to France in “milestone-linked instalments” under the 2016 contract. Down to just 30 fighter squadrons when at least 42 are required to tackle the “collusive threat” from Pakistan and China, the IAF of course remains keen to order 36 more Rafales.

See also

Indian Air Force: History

Indian Air Force: Aircraft

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