Watch Five Rafale jets entering Indian airspace
New Delhi, July 29: In historic moments for the Indian Air Force, the first batch of five Rafale combat jets on Wednesday entered the Indian air space on its way to Ambala airbase from France, officials said.
The fleet landed at Al Dhafra airbase on Monday in the UAE after flying for over seven hours from the Merignac airbase. It was the only stopover by the jets while flying from France to India. The jets were also refulled mid-air from a French tanker at a height of 30,000 feet.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweets first visuals of Rafalt fighter jets
The Defence Minister put out a tweet with "five Rafales escorted by 02 SU30 MKIs as they enter the Indian air space".
Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria will be at the strategically key Ambala air base to receive the Rafale jets, India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in over two decades. A Rs 59,000-crore deal was signed on September 23, 2016 for 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.
The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in over two decades, and they are expected to significantly boost the Indian Air Force's combat capabilities.
The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The fully versatile Rafale is able to carry out all combat aviation missions: air superiority and air defense, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.
The three single-seat and two twin-seat omni-role fighters, flown by seven IAF pilots led by commanding officer Group Captain Harkirat Singh, will touch down in Ambala to launch the 17 Golden Arrows' squadron on Wednesday.
The Rafale aircraft will cover a distance of nearly 7000 kms from France to India. The Indian Air Force pilots and supporting personnel have been provided full training on aircraft and weapon systems by Dassault.
The aircraft are expected to significantly boost the Indian Air Force''s combat capabilities at a time India is locked in a tense border row with China in eastern Ladakh.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
An official statement said the delivery of 10 aircraft has been completed on schedule and five will stay back in France for training missions. It said the delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed by the end of 2021.
The first Rafale jet was handed over to the IAF in October last year during a visit to France by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.