New Delhi: The arrival of five Rafale aircraft at the Ambala air station Wednesday will be a new chapter in the Indo-French fighter planes love affair that actually began decades ago in 1953.
It was on 25 June 1953 that India ordered for 71 MD Ouragan 450 to add to the Indian Air Force (IAF)’s capabilities, which at that time was flying the British fighter jet Vampire.
The Vampires were bought from the leftover sterling credit with England, but the need for better fighters was still felt.
And so, India zeroed in on the French fighters manufactured by Dassault Aviation, which also makes the Rafale.
The first four Ouragans were delivered by air in late October 1953 and the full delivery was completed by mid 1954 through a sea route.
India ordered for additional aircraft and eventually bought over 100 of them.
The fighters were named ‘Toofani’ by India and were known as the ‘Hurricane’ by the French. The aircraft became the mainstay of the IAF for over a decade.
It even featured in the famous 1964 movie Sangam. Superstar Raj Kapoor, who played an IAF pilot, was shown flying an Ouragan that gets shot down.
Mystere & Jaguar
Even as the Toofanis were flying, India had set eyes on the multi-role fighter Mystere Iva, also manufactured by Dassault Aviation.
In 1957, India ordered for 104 Mystere aircraft which were extensively used both in the 1965 and the 1971 wars along with the British fighters Gnats, also ordered in the 1950s.
The Mysteres were the first “supersonic-in-a-dive” aircraft the IAF used and served till 1973.
The Indo-French love affair continued and in 1979, the Morarji Desai government acquired Jaguar, made by French-British company SEPECAT.
The aircraft continues to fly even today and several of them have been placed at the critical Andaman and Nicobar Command during the current stand-off with China in Ladakh.
India then went in for another purchase of French fighters, again manufactured by Dassault Aviation.
In 1982, the Indira Gandhi government chose to acquire the Mirage 2000. India currently operates three squadrons of the Mirages that are based in Gwalior.
Even though India has over 250 Su 30 MKI, the Mirage 2000 is considered the strategic fighter and were used in the Balakot strike last year.
The Mirages are currently undergoing an upgrade process, which will extend the life span of these machines.