The Indian Air Force (IAF) has raised the second Rafale squadron, the ‘101 Falcons of Chhamb and Akhnoor’ at Ambala ahead of their formal induction at the Hasimara airbase in West Bengal. The second Rafale squadron at Hasimara is meant to counter threats on the eastern front with China. Rafales’ deployment on the eastern front is expected to boost capabilities of the IAF, which has already placed multirole air superiority fighter Sukhoi-30MKIs at Tezpur and Chabua.
The 101 squadron participated in the Indo-Pakistani wars of 1965 and 1971, and was operational till 2011. It has now been resurrected. With the first Rafale squadron, the 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ fully operational at the Ambala airbase with its full complement of 18 fighters, the 101 squadron has been resurrected with five jets that have touched down in India, IAF sources said. While the first squadron – the ’17 Golden Arrows’ – is fully operational at Ambala with 18 Rafale fighter jets, the second squadron currently has five jets, the news report suggested citing persons aware of the development. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft. The remaining 13 Rafales are expected to arrive in batches before April 2022. Ambala and Hasimara were selected as the ‘main operating home bases’ for the 4.5-generation Rafales, though the omni-role fighters can operate from anywhere in the country as and when required. Hangars, shelters, maintenance facilities and infrastructure for the Rafales have come up at both the airbases. The Hasimara airbase, close to the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction, was established with Toofani aircraft after the 1962 war with China.