The Indian Air Force's (IAF) 'Golden Arrows' no. 17 squadron is set to induct the first batch of Rafale combat aircraft. The 'Golden Arrows' is the same squadron which was commanded by current chief of IAF, Air Chief Marshal, BS Dhanoa during Operation 'Safed Sagar' of Kargil war of 1999.
An IAF source said, "The first unit to receive the Rafale combat aircraft would be the 17 Squadron which was earlier located in Bhatinda in Punjab and will now be shifted to Ambala in Haryana."
News Agency ANI reported that the 2nd squadron of the French made Rafale would be stationed in Hashimara in West Bengal to counter the Chinese threat in North East. It is to be noted earlier no. 17 squadron used to operate MiG-21s and now it will be operating newly bought Rafale.
The first Rafale aircraft is likely to be received by the IAF in September later this year and will undergo an intensive 1,500 hours of trails and testing to check specifics installed on the aircraft based on Indian requirements. This will be followed by four Rafale which is expected to be received by Ambala based No.17 squadron in May 2020.
The process for the long-delayed Rafale deal was initiated during the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in June 2001. As per the requirement given by Indian Air force, the original proposal was to procure 126 fighter jets of which 18 warplanes were to be inducted in fly-away condition. The remaining 108 aircraft were to be manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) under licence. After UPA-2 finalized the deal, the Modi led government made major changes in the deal when it curtailed the number from 126 to mere 36.
Earlier, the IAF had planned to deploy the second squadron to Saraswat air base in Uttar Pradesh but the proposal could not be taken forward because of the land acquisition issues. Moreover, Air Force station Ambala is also the home to Jaguar aircraft squadrons which generally guards Pakistani front but due to rapid deployment capabilities, the fighter can be used on both fronts.