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5 Rafale fighters to land in India today, to be inducted into ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron at Ambala base

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In the wake of a military standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Air Force (IAF) will on Wednesday receive the first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft, that will land at the Ambala air base for induction.

This will provide the IAF a much-needed muscle amid a depleting fighter strength.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria will receive the Rafale fighter jets.

The jets flew out from the Merignac air base in the French port city of Bordeaux and after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km landed at Al Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates on Monday night.

The fleet comprises three single seater- and two twin seater- aircraft. They will be inducted into the Indian Air Force as part of its No 17 Squadron, also known as the Golden Arrows at Ambala air base.

The Air Force has stated that the pilots, ground crew and the fighter will be operationally ready as the jets reach India.

Rafale would be a game changer in the current scenario when India is locked in multiple standoffs with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in its northern borders, while in the western borders, it is busy tackling the increasing cross-border firing and infiltration bids by Pakistan-based terror groups.

Meanwhile, the induction at the Air Force Station in Ambala will be subject to weather conditions.

India Meteorological Department has predicted “generally cloudy sky with one or two spells of rain or thundershowers” for Ambala today.

The final induction ceremony will take place in the second half of August 20.

“IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now,” IAF said.

Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest.

The Rafale fighter aircraft will be armed with beyond visual range missiles like Meteor, SCALP and MICA, increasing their ability to take on incoming targets from a distance.

A senior Indian Air Force officer said that Rafale fighter jets would be a major force multiplier. “There would always be a fear factor within the minds of the enemies,” said the officer, adding that even one Indian Rafale fighter can thwart the enemy’s plans.

He also explained that India will be supreme in the sky when the Rafale fighet aircraft come to the theatre.

Rafale is a 4.5 generation aircraft and has the latest weapons, superior sensors and fully integrated architecture.

Senior Indian Air Force officers state that China’s premier fighter jet Chengdu J-20A is no match to Rafale capabilities which has been seen in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

China claims that its J-20 is a 5th generation fighter aircraft, however, it has a 3rd generation engine, said a senior IAF officer questioning stealth capabilities of the aircraft.

China is now going to buy Russian Su35 to match Rafale.

The officer also said that Rafale is an omni-role aircraft which means it can carry out at least four missions in one sortie. However, China J-20 cannot carry out multiple missions in one go.

Further, the Rafale fighter aircrafts will have HAMMER missiles.

The meteor missile in Rafale makes it far more potent than the J-20. The officer also explained that the Rafale engine is better in terms of reliability, longevity and maintainability.

The officer further pointed out that Rafale can lift loads up to 1.5 times its weight, which means it can carry weapons and fuel of far greater capacity than the J-20.

In Western Theatre Command, Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force has deployed 157 fighters and 20 GJ-1/WD-1K precision strike UAVs.

India has deployed 270 fighter aircrafts and 68 ground attack aircrafts.

The ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron, which operated from the Bhatinda air base, was disbanded in 2016 after the Indian Air Force started gradual phasing out of Russian-origin MIG-21 jets. It was formed in 1951 and initially flew the Havilland Vampire F Mk 52 fighters.

The squadron has been resurrected and will be the first unit to fly the multi-role Rafale fighter jets.

India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for Rs 58,000 crore.

The first Rafale fighter was handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in October 2019 in a ceremony attended by the French Minister for Armed Forces Madame Florence Parly and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Delivery of ten aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five will stay back in France for training mission. The delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021.

In accordance with the contract, the Indian Air Force pilots and support personnel have been provided full training on the aircraft and weapon systems by Dassault. Further batches of Indian Air Force personnel will continue the training over the next nine months, the statement said.

India and France have a long history of cooperation in fighter aircraft, which includes India’s acquisition of French Toofanis in 1953, then the Mystere, Jaguar and Mirage.

French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, on Tuesday told ANI that the planes are outstanding and the Indian technicians and pilots marvellously completed their training in France. “They are totally capable to use these planes at their best,” he said.

Meanwhile, Section 144 CrPC has been imposed in four villages close to Ambala airbase. Gathering of people on roofs and photography during landing is strictly prohibited.

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‘Lessons from Swachhta Mission important in fighting Covid’: PM Modi at launch of Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurates the Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra – an interactive experience centre on the Swachh Bharat Mission in the national capital.

The centre was inaugurated at the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti at Rajghat.

During his address to the nation at the launch event, PM lauded the people of India for making swachhata a ‘jan andolan’ and urged them to continue to do so in the future.

He reiterated the importance of swachhata in our daily lives, especially during our fight against the coronavirus.

Prime Minister also launched ‘Gandagi Mukt Bharat’, a special week-long campaign for swachhata in the run-up to Independence Day, during which each day till 15th August will have special swachhata initiatives in urban and rural India to re-enforce the jan andolan for swachhata.

PM Modi briefly visited the RSK souvenir centre. He then interacted with 36 school students from Delhi, representing all States and Union Territories of India at the amphitheatre of the RSK, adhering to social distancing protocols.

The children shared with the Prime Minister their experiences with swachhata activities at home and at school, and their impressions of the RSK. One of them also asked the Prime Minister what his favourite part of the RSK was, to which the Prime Minister replied that he most enjoyed the portion dedicated to the inspiration of the SBM, Mahatma Gandhi.

He took a tour of the three distinct sections of the Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra. He first experienced a unique 360° audio visual immersive show in Hall 1 which provides an overview of the Swachh Bharat journey. He then moved to Hall 2 which contains a series of interactive LED panels, hologram boxes, interactive games and much more on the SBM.

PM Modi also saw the installations in the lawn adjacent to RSK which showcase three exhibits which are synonymous with the SBM – Mahatma Gandhi leading people to the Swachhata pledge, Rani Mistris of rural Jharkhand and children swachhagrahis who call themselves Vaanar Sena.

The Rashtriya Swachhata Kendra will be open to the public from 9th August from 8 AM to 5 PM, in accordance with the prescribed guidelines for social distancing and hygiene. As the number of people who may visit the RSK at a given point in time will have to be limited, no tours will be organized for students in the short term. However, virtual tours of the RSK will also be organized till such time as physical tours are possible. The first such virtual tour will be organized on 13th August with Minister for Jal Shakti, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. For ticket bookings and more information on the RSK, one may log on to rsk.ddws.gov.in

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Beirut explosions: French President Macron announces fundraising conference for Lebanon

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday said an international fundraising conference for Lebanon will be held in the next few days after the deadly explosion that devastated Beirut.

On a visit to the gutted city, Macron said that France will organize a conference with European, American and Middle Eastern and other donors to raise money for food, medicine, housing and other urgent aid.

Macron also promised a “clear and transparent governance” so that the aid goes directly to the populations and aid groups.

On Tuesday, two enormous explosions devastated Beirut’s port that left at least 137 people dead and over 5,000 injured across wide parts of the country’s biggest city, shaking distant buildings and spreading panic and chaos across the Lebanese capital.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab said that 2,750 tonnes of the agricultural fertiliser ammonium nitrate that had been stored for years in a portside warehouse had blown up, sparking “a disaster in every sense of the word”.

The blasts were so massive they shook the entire city and could be heard throughout the small country, and as far away as Nicosia on the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 240 kilometres (150 miles) away.

The explosions also come as Lebanon awaits a UN tribunal’s verdict Friday on the 2005 murder of former Lebanese premier Rafic Hariri, killed in a huge truck bomb attack.

Meanwhile, leaders across the world expressed their grief and condolences to the victims.

In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Shocked and saddened by the large explosion in Beirut city leading to loss of life and property. Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families and the injured.”

United States President Donald Trump said his military generals told him they “seem to feel” that the massive explosion was in fact a bomb attack.

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Biggest 1-day spike of over 62k cases, India’s Coronavirus tally crosses 20 lakh-mark; deaths reach 41,585

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India’s Coronavirus tally crossed the 20 lakh-mark on Friday after recording the highest single-day spike of 62,538 cases in 24 hours. As many as 886 patients succumbed to the infection in the same period.

The total number of Coronavirus cases in the country has risen to 20,27,075 including 6,07,384 active and 13,78,106 cured cases. The death toll has climbed to 41,585, said the data shared by the Union Health Ministry.

The recovery rate has been on a steady rise and stood at 67.98 per cent this morning.

India’s Coronavirus tally had crossed 10 lakh cases on July 17.

India has crossed 20 lakh coronavirus cases in 190 days after Kerala reported the first patient on January 30.

Meanwhile, five states reported the highest number of patients in the last 24 hours – Maharashtra (11,514), Andhra Pradesh (10,328), Karnataka (6,805), Tamil Nadu (5,684) and Uttar Pradesh (4,586).

With 4.79 lakh cases, Maharashtra remains the worst hit state. The state reported its biggest single-day jump in infections on Thursday. More than 16,000 patients have died so far.

Meanwhile, India is the third worst-hit country in terms of cases behind Brazil, which has more than 29 lakh cases and the US with close to 50 lakh cases.

At the global front, the total number of Coronavirus cases rose to 18,908,111, with deaths reaching 710,318, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

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