New Delhi: Five Rafale jets, including two twin-seaters, landed Wednesday at the Ambala Air Force Station, home of the first squadron of the French fighters, having flown 8,500 km from Merignac in France. The jets were welcomed with the traditional water salute.
This is the first batch of 36 Rafale fighters ordered by India from Dassault Aviation, in a process that was first initiated in 2001.
The five aircraft and seven pilots, including 17th Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ Commanding Officer Group Captain Harkirat Singh, were welcomed by Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, who flew into the Ambala base from the national capital earlier Wednesday.
The pilots will now undergo the mandatory Covid-19 test, sources told ThePrint.
The sources said there was no ‘pooja’ held this time, unlike when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had accepted delivery of the aircraft in France in October last year.
The five Rafales landed one after the other, as several other jets remained airborne to welcome and shoot pictures and videos of the new additions to the Indian Air Force.
The Rafales were escorted by two Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighters as they entered Indian airspace from Jamnagar in Gujarat, circumventing Pakistani airspace while flying down from the UAE, where they had halted for over 24 hours at the French air base.
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According to an IAF statement, the first stage of the flight covered a distance of 5,800 km in seven and a half hours. A French Air Force tanker provided dedicated air-to-air refuelling support during the flight.
The second stage of the flight, covering over 2,700 km, was carried out with air-to-air refuelling by an IAF tanker, the statement read.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took to Twitter and said: “The birds have landed safely in Ambala. The touch down of Rafale combat aircrafts (sic) in India marks the beginning of a new era in our military history. These multirole aircrafts will revolutionise the capabilities of the IAF.”
The Rafale jets were purchased when they fully met the operational requirements of the IAF. The baseless allegations against this procurement have already been answered and settled.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) July 29, 2020
The minister said the Rafales were purchased when they fully met the operational requirements of the IAF, and also warned those who threatened India’s territorial integrity.
“The baseless allegations against this procurement have already been answered and settled. I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity,” he said.
I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) July 29, 2020
The IAF has already announced it will hold a formal induction ceremony in mid-August. It is speculated that the top leadership of the country could attend the formal induction ceremony, which is likely to take place after Independence Day.
For more details on the Rafale aircraft and its capabilities, read this article published earlier in the day.
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