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IAF Chief resurrects 17 squadron, to be first unit to fly Rafale jets

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Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa presenting Squadron insignia to Group Captain Harkirat Singh to mark the resurrection of 17 squadron during a ceremony held at Air Force Station Ambala on 10 Sep, 2019. Photo: IAF/Twitter

AMBALA (PTI): Chief of the Air staff, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa on Tuesday resurrected the 17 squadron at the Ambala Air Force Station as it got ready to receive the Rafale jets next month.

The 'Golden Arrows' 17 Squadron was commanded by Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa during the Kargil war in 1999 and will be the first unit to fly the multi-role Rafale fighter jets.

While addressing the Air Force officers, the Air Chief said that the squadron did excellent work since its installation and after Jaguar and MIG-21 fighter aircraft, the Ambala air base would now get the Rafale fighter.

The Ambala station has jumped from MIG-21 to latest modern aircraft Rafale. In the near future, 17 squadron will be the first one to be equipped with the state-of-the-art Rafale aircraft, which is an extremely capable, fourth generation aircraft with advanced weapons, he said.

The Chief of the Air Staff presented a memento to Group Captain Harkirat Singh to commemorate the occasion. The ceremony was attended by various dignitaries from Indian Air Force and Indian Army.

The 17 squadron, which operated from Bhatinda air base, was disbanded in 2016 after the IAF started gradual phasing out of Russian-origin MIG-21 jets. It was formed in 1951 and initially flew de Havilland Vampire F Mk 52 fighters.

The Indian Air Force has initiated major infrastructure upgrade at its frontline base in Ambala for the deployment of the first squadron of Rafale jets which is competent of carrying nuclear weapons and other missiles.

India and France had inked a deal in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore.

The Rafales will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.

Ambala air base has almost completed the required infrastructure and training of pilots to operate the new fighter aircraft.

Built in 1948, the air base is located on the east side of Ambala in Haryana and is used for military and government flights. It is also used to fly in politicians and other key people.

The Ambala air base has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and one squadron of the MIG-21 Bison. Air Marshal Arjan Singh was the first commander of the base.

The Mirage fighters that were used for the air strike at Balakot on Feb 26, 2019 in wake of Pulwama terror attack had taken off from the Ambala air base.

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