The IAF’s solitary Rafale squadron will add more muscle with the arrival of at least three more fighter jets by the end of the month.(REUTERS)
The IAF’s solitary Rafale squadron will add more muscle with the arrival of at least three more fighter jets by the end of the month.(REUTERS)

Rafale jets to debut in Republic Day flypast

The Rafales, whose induction into the IAF began last September and is work in progress, are taking part in the flypast for the first time. A woman fighter pilot will also participate in the parade for the first time.
By Rahul Singh, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JAN 19, 2021 05:11 AM IST

The Indian Air Force’s Rafales, Sukhoi-30s and MiG-29s — fighters that are part of its muscular posture in the Ladakh theatre — are among the 42 aircraft that will take part in this year’s Republic Day flypast — the highlight of India’s biggest ceremonial parade, air force officials said on Monday.

The Rafales, whose induction into the IAF began last September and is work in progress, are taking part in the flypast for the first time. A woman fighter pilot will also participate in the parade for the first time.

The IAF’s solitary Rafale squadron will add more muscle with the arrival of at least three more fighter jets by the end of the month. The delivery of the three jets will take the number of Rafales in IAF’s inventory to 11.

The IAF’s C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, C-130J Super Hercules special operations plane, Apache AH-64E attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission choppers — platforms that have formed part of the force’s role in the Ladakh sector — will also participate in the flypast, the officials said.

As many as 42 aircraft will be a part of different formations during the flypast including 15 fighter jets, five transport aircraft, 21 helicopters and a vintage Dakota aircraft, the IAF said in a briefing on its role in the parade. A Rafale aircraft will fly with two Jaguars and two MiG-29 fighter jets in one of the formations at the flypast, which will wrap up with the Rafale carrying out another manoeuvre.

The flypast will see a vintage Dakota aircraft fly in formation with two Mi-17 V5 helicopters, marking the 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh. A Bangladeshi military contingent is also taking part in the parade. An IAF C-17 heavy-lifter last week flew 122 Bangladeshi military personnel from Dhaka for the parade.

The participation of the Bangladeshi soldiers in the parade will mark the second time that foreign soldiers will march down Rajpath, as reported by HT on January 3. The Bangladeshi contingent has been invited to take part in the parade at a time when the two countries are celebrating the golden jubilee of the birth of Bangladesh.

Foreign soldiers took part in the parade for the first time in 2016 when a French army contingent of 130 soldiers marched down Rajpath (then French President Francois Hollande was the chief guest that year).

Flight Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth, one of the first women fighter pilots in IAF, will be a part of the air force’s tableau that will showcase mock-ups of the light combat aircraft, light combat helicopter and the Sukhoi-30 fighter plane. The LCA model will be armed with India’s first anti-radiation missile Rudram.

The parade will be shorter, involve fewer participants and only a fourth of the usual number of spectators will be allowed at Rajpath, with the ceremonial event being curtailed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The shortened route of the parade will see it end at National Stadium instead of Red Fort. Not more than 25,000 spectators will be allowed at Rajpath, compared to at least 100,000 people who usually turn up for the parade.

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