India set to resurrect '101 squadron' at Hashimara base with 4 more Rafale jets
With another batch of four Rafale fighters landing at Ambala from Merignac-Bordeaux airbase in France on May 19-20, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is all set to resurrect the 101 “Falcons of Chamb” squadron at Hashimara in West Bengal even as advance units have already moved into the new base.
While the exact date of Rafale landing in India will be determined by availability of mid-air refuellers of the UAE Air Force and weather conditions, it is quite evident that the full deliveries of 36 aircraft will be completed well before April 2022 as announced by Union defence minister Rajnath Singh in Parliament. At the end of May, the IAF will have 24 Rafale fighter jets in India, with another seven kept for training purposes in France and only five more to be handed over before the two squadrons are complete.
The last five aircraft may be delivered in the second-half of 2021 as Egypt has placed an order of 30 Rafale fighters.
The home base of second squadron is getting readied at Hashimara with repaved extended runways, ammunition depots, blast pens and personnel accommodation apart from maintenance bays. “The Hashimara air base has been totally revamped and should be operational by end of this month. This will be the peace time location of the aircraft but in war times, the fighters will operate from anywhere in the country as per war plans,” said an Air Marshal.
With India likely to buy more front-line fighters to complete the stalled requirement of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA), the French have not only offered hot engine technology to India but are also willing to jointly develop extended range and capability Hammer air-to-ground missile under the Atmanirbhar Bharat route. French engine manufacturer Safran has already conveyed the offer for jointly developing aircraft engines upto 100 Kilo Newton thrust as well as share the hot engine technology which Indian allies in the west are reluctant to share.
France has also offered to share and jointly develop technology for longer range and heavier Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range (Hammer) missile which is currently part of the weapons package on the Indian Rafale. With a range of over 70 kilometres, the Hammer weapon can be guided on to the target using GPS, Inertial Navigation and Infra-red seeker with the capability to adjust to target location mid-air using maps for course correction. The latest version of this weapon has a 1,000 kilogram bomb and with laser guidance technology.
“The Rafale package is a game-changer in the region as none of India’s adversaries have such capability to wage war beyond visual range,” said an IAF Air Marshal.
India ordered 36 warplanes from France (equivalent of two squadrons) in 2016 for ₹59,000 crore under a government-to-government deal.