New Delhi: Five Rafale fighter jets of the IAF have taken off from Merignac in France and will travel about 7,000 km, with a stopover in the UAE, before arriving at the Ambala air station Wednesday.
The IAF has been quiet on the exact configuration of the aircraft coming to India but sources indicated that two of the five fighters are twin-seaters used for training.
“These 5 Rafale jets are extremely swift, versatile and very deadly aircraft. They are both beauty and the beast. I would like to thank Dassault for delivering the aircraft on time and French Government and French Air Force for all the support,” Indian Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf said.
A total of 12 pilots have undergone extensive training on the Rafale fighters and their weapon systems, while another batch is currently getting trained.
Explaining the complexity of the training, the sources said the Rafale’s throttle and stick have 36 switches on them.
“Each switch has four distinct movements that are meant for specific operations. Imagine, the level of training that one goes through,” a source in the know told ThePrint.
The sources said this system is known as HOTAS or hands on throttle and stick. This means the pilot can use the throttle and stick to control the entire spectrum of the operations.
9 jets handed over so far
French defence major Dassault Aviation, which is manufacturing the Rafale jets, has since October last year handed over a total of nine aircraft to the IAF. The 10th is undergoing acceptance trials by IAF pilots in France.
As reported by ThePrint earlier, sources have said the aircraft can be operationally deployed, if needed, “within a week”.
The Indian Embassy in France has put out a series of tweets showing the fighters taking off.
Envoy Ashraf said the long awaited and much needed two squadrons of Rafale would add to the IAF’s strength and the country’s defence capability.
The Rafale fighters have taken off from Merignac, where the production facility of Dassault Aviation is located.
They are headed to the French airbase in Al Dhafra near Abu Dhabi in the UAE for a night halt.
This would be a 10-hour journey and these fighters would be accompanied by two mid-air refuellers of the French Air Force.
There will be two rounds of mid-air refuelling to complete the journey.
While the distance to the UAE can be covered by the Rafale in much shorter time, they will have to keep pace with the tankers.
After the night halt in the UAE, the jets will take off for Ambala in Haryana, where the IAF’s 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ — home of the first Squadron of Rafale fighters — is based. A closed induction ceremony is scheduled to be held at the Ambala air base.
The Jamnagar air base has been kept ready as a backup in case of any kind of emergency, sources said.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.