AMBALA, July 29 - India on Wednesday received its first batch of new combat-proven fighter aircraft in two decades with the arrival of five Rafale jets, giving the country�s air power a strategic edge in the midst of a bitter border row with China in eastern Ladakh and frayed ties with Pakistan.
The aircraft, having an undisputed track record and considered one of the most potent combat jets globally, landed at the Ambala Air Force base at around 3:10 PM after covering a distance of 7,000 km from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux.
Each jet was given a special water cannon salute at the strategically-located air base in the presence of top brass of the Indian Air Force including Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria who had played a key role as lead negotiator in procurement of the jets.
Welcoming the arrival of the jets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet in Sanskrit, said there is no virtue like protecting the nation and there is no vow like defence of the nation.
�The Birds have landed safely in Ambala,� Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted as soon as the aircraft touched down here.
At the same time, he used the occasion to send a veiled message to China.
�I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity,� the Defence Minister said.
The Rafales were escorted by two Sukhoi 30 MKIs after they entered the Indian air space.
Singh said that �the touch down of Rafale combat aircrafts in India marks the beginning of a new era in our military history. These multirole aircraft will revolutionise the capabilities of the IAF�.
The NDA government had inked a Rs 59,000-crore deal on September 23, 2016 to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the UPA regime.
The emergency acquisition was made primarily to check the depleting combat capability of the IAF as the number of its fighter squadrons had come down to a worrying 31 against the authorised strength of at least 42.
The fleet, comprising three single seater and two twin seater aircraft, are being inducted into the IAF as part of its Ambala-based No. 17 Squadron, also known as the �Golden Arrows�. � PTI
Among the key reforms in the policy are a single regulator for all higher education institutions except for legal and medical colleges, common entrance exam for admissions to universities and colleges to be conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA).