The first 5 of a batch of French Rafale fighter jets will land in India today.
After covering a distance of 7,000 km they will touch down the land of Ambala located in Haryana. Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria will be at the strategically key Ambala airbase to receive the Rafale jets.
In the last two decades, this is India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes.
On the 23rd of September, 2016, a deal of Rs 59,000 crore was signed for 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.
Several precautions are being taken to welcome the jets. Security has been tightened near the airbase, which is located about 200km from the border with Pakistan. There are four nearby villages, gatherings have been banned from there. People are restricted to gather on rooftops as well. All sorts of photography and videography are banned. A local MLA has urged the nearby people to light candles in the evening to welcome the jets.
The jets piloted by IAF officers took off from the Merignac in southwest France and refuelled mid-air on the way. Spectacular visuals posted by the Air Force yesterday showcased the jets refuelling from a French tanker at a height of 30,000 feet. In between their journey, the stopped at Al Dhafra in the UAE, where France has an airbase.
All the jets are to be delivered by 2022.
“Our airforce pilots tell us that these are extremely swift, nimble and versatile and very deadly aircraft. This is going to add a great deal of strength to our airpower and defence preparedness but it is also a powerful symbol of our strategic partnership between France and India”, Jawed Ashraf, India’s ambassador to France.
The fleet comprising three single-seaters and two twin-seater aircraft will be inducted into the IAF as part of its No. 17 Squadron, also known as the ‘Golden Arrow’. It will be stationed at the Ambala airbase which has been upgraded for the purpose.
The Ambala airbase has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and squadron of the MIG- 21 Boston.