Viral posts claiming that Air Commodore Hilal Ahmed Rather flew one of the five Rafale jets - the first batch of which reached India from France on July 29 - are false.
BOOM contacted the Indian Air Force and confirmed that Rather is at present India's Air Attache to France, and he was not piloting the fighter jet to India. According to news reports, Air Commodore Rather saw off the first batch of five Rafale jets which took off from France on July 27.
The five Rafale fighter jets made a touchdown on the Indian soil at Ambala airbase on July 29. The fighter jets had taken off from France's Bordeaux-Merignac facility for India on July 27. Read more about it here. According to news reports, a team of seven IAF pilots have flown the five fighter jets to India.
The viral post (archive) shares a collage of three photos showing Hilal Ahmed Rather and Rafale jets.
A Hindi caption with the viral post translates to 'Hilal who flew Rafale. This is Air Commodore Hilal Ahmed Rather, a native of Kashmir. He is flying the first Rafale fighter jet to India. Hailing from South Kashmir's Anantnag has finished his studies from Sainik School. He joined Indian Air Force in 1988. Before this Hilal has flown MIG-21, Mirage 2000 and Kiran aircraft. He is the recipient of VayuSena medal and Vishisht Seva medal'.
(Hindi: रफ़ाल उड़ाने वाले हिलाल | ये हैं एयर कोमडोर हिलाल अहमद राठेर. जो मूल रूप से कश्मीर से हैं. भारत आ रहे पहले रफ़ाल लड़ाकू विमान को ये ही उड़ा रहे हैं. दक्षिण कश्मीर के अनंतनाग ज़िले के रहने वाले हिलाल ने सैनिक स्कूल से पढ़ाई की है. वो 1988 में भारतीय वायुसेना में शामिल हुए थे. हिलाल इससे पहले मिग-21, मिराज 2000 और किरण एयरक्राफ़्ट उड़ा चुके हैं. उन्हें वायू सेना मेडल मिल चुका है. 2016 में विशिष्ट सेवा मेडल भी मिला है)
BOOM also found old videos of a Rafale jet performing mid-air maneuvering viral with captions claiming that Air Commodore Rather was at the pilot seat of the fighter jet on way to India.
A Hindi caption with the viral video translates to 'Five Rafale fighter jets arrive in India. Just see the swag of Rafale and pilot Hilal Ahmed'.
(Hindi: भारत में 5 राफेल लडाकू विमानों का हुआ आगमन, जरा राफेल का और पायलट हिलाल अहमद का जलवा देखो)
Watch the viral post below and access its archived version here.
BOOM went through through several news article reporting on the Rafale jets being flown to India, none of which mentions anything about IAF officer Rather flying one of the jets to India.
The reports mention how the Air Force veteran, India's Air Attache in France, had played an important role in the quick delivery of the fighter jets, and also saw off the first batch of the jets from France.
"Reports suggest that he played a crucial part in early delivery of the Rafales, and was previously associated with the weaponisation of the Rafale jets according to the Indian requirements," says an article published in the live Mint on July 31.
A Times of India article also mentions how Rather had played a key role in 'ensuring the delivery of the jets to the country'.
BOOM also contacted the Indian Air Force to get more details. IAF spokesperson Indranil Nandi confirmed that Air Commodore Hilal Ahmed Rather had not flown one of the Rafale fighter jets to India.
"Air Commodore Hilal Ahmed Rather is India's Air Attache in France. He did not fly one of the jets," the IAF spokesperson told BOOM.
BOOM also found a tweet from the official handle of RMO India (Raksha Mantri Office) on July 29 that shared an article on the key role played by Rather in the Rafale delivery, and his return home to Kashmir.
BOOM ran a reverse image search on one of the screengrabs of the viral video and found that the same video had been uploaded on YouTube on September 30, 2016.
The caption with the YouTube video reads 'Dassault Rafale | MOST BRUTAL JET DISPLAY EVER'.
The description with the video uploaded on YouTube channel PaddyPatrone reads 'I filmed this at the 2016 Airpower in Zeltweg, Austria. I can tell you, this was the hardest filming I did so far. Man that aircraft screamed like hell'.
Watch the video below.
BOOM reached out to Germany-based Patrick Nern who confirmed that the original video of the airshow was filmed by him at 2016's Airpower 16, in Zeltweg, Austria.
We were however unable to independently verify whether or not Commodore Hilal Ahmed Rather has previously piloted a Rafale fighter jet.
Claim Review : Post claims Commodore Hilal Ahmed Rather flew the first Rafael jet to India
Claimed By : Facebook pages
Fact Check : False