The Indian Air Force plans to raise its second squadron of Rafale fighter jets at Hasimara Air Force base in West Bengal by next month to counter threats from China.
Hasimara is a strategic base for IAF operations because of its proximity to Bhutan, the Chumbi Valley where lies a tri-junction between India, Bhutan and China, and Doklam where a standoff took place in 2017. The tri-junction has been a matter of concern for all the three countries.
“Second Rafale Squadron is being raised at the next Main Operating Base (MOB) Hasimara in mid April this year,” said an Indian Air Force official.
The first squadron was raised in Ambala after first batch of five Rafale aircraft landed on July 29, 2020. These aircraft were inducted on September 10 at Ambala Air Base into the 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ Squadron.
The Indian Air Force has received 11 jets till now out of the 36 ordered from France. Six more jets are expected to be delivered in a month. The remaining aircraft are likely to be in India by April 2022. Currently, IAF pilots are being trained in France.
The two squadrons of Rafale jets will add wings to the IAF’s depleting fleet strength.
The two squadrons with 18 jets each at Amabala and Hasimara have been planned keeping in mind the operations against Pakistan on the western front and China in the eastern sector.
Hasimara earlier had a MiG-27 squadron that has now been decommissioned.
India had inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
A 4.5 generation aircraft with the latest weapons, superior sensors and fully integrated architecture, Rafale is an omni-role aircraft which means it can carry out at least four missions in one sortie.
Armed with Hammer missiles, it will also have beyond visual range missiles like Meteor, Scalp and Mica, increasing their ability to take on incoming targets from a distance.