Five Rafales inducted into 101 Squadron at Hasimara AFS in West Bengal
The Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), the Indian Air Force’s newest acquisition, was formally inducted into the 101 Squadron at Air Force Station (AFS) Hasimara in West Bengal’s Alipurduar district on July 28. The induction will significantly strengthen the Air Force’s capabilities on India’s eastern front.
This induction marks the second of the IAF’s squadrons to be equipped with the Rafale aircraft. On September 10, 2020, five Rafale jets were formally inducted into the IAF’s 17 Squadron, the Golden Arrows, at a mega ceremony at AFS Ambala, which is located 200 kilometres north of Delhi and comes under the operational command of the Delhi headquartered Western Air Command.
The induction ceremony at Hasimara AFS, presided over by the Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, was marked by a fly-past, heralding the arrival of the Rafale to Hasimara, and the traditional water cannon salute. Addressing IAF personnel during the induction ceremony, the Chief of the Air Staff said the decision to make Hasimara AFS the second main operating base (MOB) for the Rafale had come about after careful planning. It was a decision taken, he said, keeping in mind the importance of strengthening the IAF’s capability in the eastern sector.
Like all airbases in the north-eastern region, which are under the operational command of the Shillong-headquartered Eastern Air Command, Hasimara AFS shares the security concerns of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along with the Western Air Command and the Prayagraj-based Central Air Command. Air support from Hasimara AFS, which is part of the IAF’s 16 Wing, is crucial in the event of any untoward eventuality to the three important army mountain divisions based in Gangtok, Binnaguri and Kalimpong that come under the command of the Sukna-based 33 Corps. Hasimara AFS also has the added responsibility of holding the Nathula Pass in Sikkim.
Recalling the glorious history of the 101 Squadron, which was bestowed the title ‘Falcons of Chamb and Akhnoor'’, the Air Chief urged Air Force personnel to combine their zeal and commitment with the unmatched potential of the newly inducted platform. He added that he had no doubt that the 101 Squadron would dominate whenever and wherever required and ensure that the adversary would always be intimidated by their sheer presence.
The 101 Squadron was formed on May 1, 1949, at Palam and has operated Harvard, Spitfire, Vampire, Su-7 and MiG-21M aircraft in the past. The glorious history of this squadron includes active participation in the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars.
A squadron usually consists of 16 to 18 fighter aircraft and two trainers. The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, 2020, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 Rafales at a cost of Rs.59,000 crores. The delivery of all 36 Rafales, 30 of which will be single seater fighter aircraft, while six will be twin-seat trainers, is scheduled to be completed by 2022. As of July, Dassault have delivered 24 Rafales to India.
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