Six Rafale warplanes will land in India on April 28, enabling the Indian Air Force (IAF) to take the first steps to raise its second squadron of the fourth-generation-plus fighter jets at West Bengal’s Hasimara airbase, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday. Four more fighters are scheduled to reach next month.
The 6 planes will allow the IAF to fully raise the No. 17 Squadron, also known as the Golden Arrows. The squadron, disbanded in 2016 after the IAF started phasing out of Russian-origin MiG 21 jets, was revived in September last year after the induction of the first batch of the French-origin warplanes. The squadron is based out of Ambala Air Force Station, India’s oldest airbase that is strategically located near India’s border with Pakistan and China.
A senior IAF official said induction of the 6 fighters will complete the Golden Arrows squadron – it currently has 14 fighters against a standard squadron strength of 18 – and enable the air force to induct 2 remaining planes from this batch in the second Rafale squadron to be raised at the Hasimara airbase in Bengal’s Siliguri corridor. The four planes expected in May will also be sent to the squadron in Hasimara which will cover central and eastern Tibet.