The Indian Air Force (IAF) is gearing up for Rafale's arrival, but even before its delivery by Dassault, the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft could face a unique enemy at its future base in Ambala.
The increasing pigeon population in areas close to the Air force station Ambala is giving sleepless nights to IAF officials who have raised the issue with the local administration. The IAF wants a complete check on the breeding of pigeons to make the Ambala airbase a safer zone for flying.
"In recent times, there are some locals who are breeding pigeons in their houses. These are in close vicinity to the IAF airfield. These birds are posing a threat to our fighter jets," an IAF source said.
Last month a flock of birds hit the IAF's Jaguar combat aircraft directly, leading to the failure of one its engines. A crash was averted because of the pilot's smart and quick decision as he jettisoned the fuel tanks of his aircraft, managing to land the aircraft without any major damage.
"The pilot jettisoned his fuel tanks and external stores, which included around 10 kgs of practice bombs to gain height and managed to land safely," an IAF official said.
The incident is making IAF officials jittery as Ambala airbase is getting ready to station Rafale jets, which are expected to arrive by 2020. The IAF is taking the threat seriously and has requested the local administration to ensure that no further breeding or herding is allowed as it poses a great security threat to any flying activity in the area.
Last week, French Ambassador to India, Alexandre Ziegler, affirmed that the first Rafale aircraft will be delivered in the next two months. "The first Rafale will be delivered to the Indian Air Force in two months from now, I think in September, perfectly on time,'' he said.
The complete batch of 36 aircraft will be delivered in the next two years, he further added. The aircraft will undergo an intensive 1,500 hours of trails and testing to check specifics installed, based on Indian requirements. This will be followed by the delivery of four Rafale jets, which are expected to be received by Ambala base No.17 squadron in May 2020.