IAF resurrects Golden Arrows squadron to fly Rafale

Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa after resurrecting the No. 17 'Golden Arrows' Squadron. PTI Photo

Indian Air Force on Tuesday resurrected one of its most decorated units – the 17 Squadron (Golden Arrows), which will fly the country's first fleet of Rafale combat aircraft.

The resurrection ceremony was conducted at the Air Force Station Ambala, which will be the first home base of the Rafale in IAF colours. Hashimara in northern parts of West Bengal will be the second base of these advanced fighters that India purchased from France.

Its manufacturer Dassault Aviation is likely to hand over the first Rafale jet to India at a ceremony in France on October 8, which incidentally is Dusshera as well as the Air Force Day.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh could be in France to receive the first aircraft, though there is no official confirmation as of now.

Under the leadership of then Wing Commander B S Dhanoa, the Golden Arrows participated actively in Operation Safed Sagar in 1999 – the airstrikes during the Kargil episode. Dhanoa, who currently heads the IAF, was present at Ambala to resurrect his old squadron.

The unit flew an older version of MiG-21 fighters, which were phased out and the squadron disbanded in 2016.

“In the near future, 17 Squadron will be the first squadron to be equipped with the state of the art Rafale aircraft, which is an extremely capable, fourth generation, multi-role aircraft with advanced weapons,” the IAF said in a statement.

The 17 Squadron was formed at Ambala on Oct 1, 1951, under the command of Flight Lieutenant DL Springett and was then equipped with Harvard-II B aircraft.

By November 1955, the Squadron converted fully to De Havilland Vampire and by 1957, Hawker Hunters were flown by the ‘Golden Arrows’. The Squadron converted to the Mig-21 M in 1975.

The unit actively participated in the Goa Liberation Campaign in December 1961 but was kept as a reserve force in 1965 operations. It took part in the Indo-Pak war of 1971 and flew close air support, counter-air and fighter recce missions, because of which it received gallantry awards.

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