The Indian air force has inducted the Dassault Rafale fighter into its ranks at Air Force Station Ambala, as border tensions with China simmer. 

The aircraft will serve with the air force’s 17 Sqn, says the service’s Facebook page.

The induction follows five examples being flown to India from Dassault’s Merignac site in southern France in late July. The five aircraft comprised three single-seat Rafale C fighters and a pair of two-seat Bs.

They are part of a special 36-aircraft procurement signed in September 2016. This followed the collapse of the long-running Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition, which could have seen New Delhi obtain 126 Rafales, of which 108 would have been produced domestically.

The induction of the Rafale comes at a time of heightened tension with Beijing over disputed territory in the Himalayas, where India and China share a vaguely defined mountain frontier.

On 1 August, Shiv Aroor of the Livefist defence blog posted an interview with retired Air Marshal Raghunath Nambier about the Rafale on YouTube.

“The Rafale comes with a full package of electronic warfare, beyond-visual-range missiles, air-to-ground armarment… the whole perks,” Nambier said. “It’s got everything packed within its very sleek frame.”

Nambier also touched on Indian and Chinese air force operations at high altitudes in the Himalayas. He believes the Indian air force has a clear edge over its rival, in that its air bases are sited at considerably lower altitudes, allowing its fighters to take off with greater payloads.

“[Most of their airfields] are at a 3.5-4km altitude, and there are serious penalties on the performance of their aircraft,” he told Livefist.