IAF to induct second squadron of Rafale fighter jets in April in West Bengal
After having operationalised its first squadron of Rafale fighter jets at Ambala last year, the IAF will be raising the second squadron of this aircraft in the eastern sector next month.
“The second Rafale Squadron being raised at the next Main Operating Base (MOB) Hasimara in mid-April this year,” a senior officer at Air Headquarters said on Thursday. The aircraft will be inducted into No.101 Squadron.
Also known as the Falcons Of Chhamb, No. 101 Squadron was created as a photo reconnaissance flight at Palam in May 1949 with four Harvards, two Spitfires, eight pilots and fifty-five airmen. After operating the Vampire and Su-7, it last flew the MiG-21 M fighter in the western theatre.
The IAF has already received 11 French-made Rafale fighters so far, which form No,17 Squadrons, the Golden Arrows, based at Ambala airbase in the western sector.
More aircraft are expected to arrive in batches over the next few months.
The first batch of five Rafales had arrived in India from France on July 29, 2020, after making an overnight halt in the UAE. They were formally inducted into the IAF in September.
The next batch of three aircraft had arrived in November after flying non-stop from France in about eight hours.
Since their induction, the Rafales have been fully operational and are undertaking various missions, including flying in Ladakh, where Indian and Chinese armies have been engaged in a close confrontation along the Line of Actual Control for the past about 10 months.
The IAF is procuring a total of 36 Rafale multi-role aircraft, equipping two squadrons, with the second one to be based in the east. Recently, the IAF said Rafale could be a contender for the IAF’s planned acquisition of 114 fighter aircraft.
While Ambala is the country’s oldest airbase that began its tryst with aviation in 1919, Hasimara came up after the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict. Located in Alipurduar district of north-eastern West Bengal, it lies near the Indo-Bhutan border and is the closest Indian airbase to the strategic Chumbi Valley – the tri-junction between Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet.
The squadron at Ambala is being commanded by Group Captain Harkirat Singh, who is among the three Group Captains who trained on the Rafales in France. According to sources, he is being given the responsibility of raising the new squadron at Hasimara so that his expertise and experience can be utilized optimally.
The last aircraft to operate out of Hasimara were the Soviet origin MiG-27 ground attack aircraft.