The newly established Rafale fighter aircraft featured for the first time in India’s Republic Day flypast as it carried out the ‘Brahmastra’ formation alone and was part of the ‘Eklavya’ formation with four other fighter jets. The fighter jet conducted Eklavya formation by flying at around 300 meters along with two Jaguar and two MIG-29 aircraft. The five jets resembled a V shape, with Rafale leading the pack. The 25,000 strong audience was able to see the Rafale fighter jet again when it culminated in the flypast by conducting the Brahmastra formation wherein it traversed at a low altitude for some distance, then pulled up vertically at 90 degrees and completed rolls before stabilizing at a higher height.
In a significant boost to India’s air power capability, five French-made multirole Rafale fighter jets were inducted into the IAF on September 10 last year. A total of 38 IAF aircraft and four planes of the Indian Army participated in the flypast on Tuesday. Goel’s siblings, who came all the way from Yamunanagar, Haryana, to attend the ceremonial event, were ecstatic to see Rafale take to the sky at the celebrations for the first time. “That ‘Vertical Charlie’ by Rafale at the end was a total show-stopper. It was my first time at Republic Day, and less crowd actually helped me enjoy the event more. I must admit, Rafale’s aerial maneuver was just scintillating,” said 24-year-old Mayank Goel, an engineer. His sister Kirti Goel, who attended it for the second time, asked what the most amazing experience from the 2021 Republic Day event at Rajpath was; she quipped, “Rafale’s aerial stunt”.
“I attended it in 2015 for the first time, when US President Barack Obama was the chief guest. That time, I had seen the ‘Beast,’ and this time I saw the fighter jet Rafale, so two amazing experiences,” she told PTI. For Kuldeep Sharma, who works in the IT sector, and his wife, Rafale’s aerial maneuver at the end of the parade was the “most awe-inspiring experience”. As is traditionally the case on Republic Day, flypast was divided into two blocks: the first was along with the parade and the second was after the parade.
In the first block, there were three formations. The first was the ‘Nishan’ formation comprising four Mi17V5 aircraft that carried all three services’ national flags and logos. It was followed by the ‘Dhruv’ formation by four helicopters of the Army Aviation Corps. The last was the ‘Rudra’ formation — comprising a single Dakota aircraft flanked by two Mi17V5 helicopters — which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the country’s victory in the 1971 war.