New Delhi, July (HS) The first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft took off from France’s Istres airbase on Monday and will reach at Ambala Airbase in India on July 29, covering a distance of almost 7,364 kilometres.
India’s Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf was present at the Merignac airbase in Bordeaux to see off the Rafale aircraft. Ashraf said that the long awaited and much needed two squadrons of Rafale would add great strength to IAF and India’s defence capabilities.
He also met the IAF pilots and wished them a safe flight to India. Ashraf also congratulated the IAF pilots on becoming the first Indian pilots to fly one of the world’s most advanced and potent fighter aircraft.
The Indian Embassy in France said in a press release, “India took a significant step in strengthening air power and defence preparedness with the first five Rafale fighter aircraft, built by Dassault, flying out from Merignac airbase in Bordeaux, France to India today. This also marks a new milestone in the strong and growing India-France defence cooperation.”
Ashraf also thanked French Air Force for support and Dassault for delivering the aircraft on schedule despite the ongoing pandemic crisis. Mr. Eric Trappier, Chairman Dassault Aviation and Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather, the Air Attache to France were also present on the occasion apart from other officials.
“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 Party and Union 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,” added the Embassy statement.
All of them will be made operational within a week to join the ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron of the Indian Air Force as they are to be deployed along the eastern Ladakh border to take the front from China.
That is why the missiles and other equipment in the aircraft have already reached the Air Force’s Ambala airbase. Aircrews and ground crews related to fighter jet Rafale with highly advanced weapon systems have completed their extensive training.
These five Rafale aircraft have 3 twin-seat and 2 single-seat. The upcoming Rafale is not yet equipped with all weapons systems. When Rafale arrives in Ambala, he will be able to fire 300-km range of scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles and hammer systems.
The trainer Rafale aircraft will have the tail numbers of the RB series in honour of the IAF Chief RKS Bhadauria who played a significant role in finalising Rafale deal. India had inked a Rs 60,000 crore deal with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to bolster the capabilities of IAF.
Out of the 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin-seater and they will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.
The five aircraft will be the first tranche of the 36 planes bought by India from France in a Rs 59,000-crore inter-governmental deal in 2016.