The second batch of three Rafale jets has arrived in India after flying non-stop from France. These three fighter jets will join the five Rafales that have already been inducted in the Golden Arrows Squadron of Indian Air Force back in September.
In a tweet, the Indian Air Force (IAF) stated that three Rafale jets touched down in India at 8:14 pm on Wednesday after flying non-stop from Istres airbase in France. During this journey, the aircraft covered 3,700 nautical miles, or a little over 6,852km before arriving at an IAF base.
During this flight, the three Rafale jets carried out three in-flight refuellings to make all the way, IAF said. "IAF deeply appreciates the tanker support extended by French Air Force for the direct ferry by second batch of IAF Rafales," the Indian Air Force said in a statement.
The delivery of Rafales began with the first batch of five jets in September. Notably, it coincides with an ongoing border conflict with China in eastern Ladakh. India has moved its forces and machinery, including its advanced fighter jets, to forward positions. The newly inducted fleet of five Rafale jets has already been carrying out sorties in eastern Ladakh.
The Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia. Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on October 5 said that the induction of all 36 Rafale jets will be completed by 2023.
The IAF has deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets like Sukhoi Su-30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft in the key frontier air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the LAC.
The Rafale jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Scalp cruise missile and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.
The IAF is also procuring a new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets.
Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defence major Safran. The missile was originally designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy.
Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.
The first squadron of the Rafale jets is stationed at Ambala airbase while the second one will be based at Hasimara in West Bengal.