The first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft, which took off on Monday from France - the home country of Rafale jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation - will reach India on Wednesday.
The Indian Air Force (IAF)'s Media Co-ordination Centre, in a twitter post, shared a few images of mid-air refuelling of these jets, and said: "Indian Air Force appreciates the support provided by French Air Force for our Rafale journey back home."
The five jets - 3-single seater, and 2-double seater planes - landed safely in United Arab Emirates (UAE)'s Al Dhafra airbase yesterday after a 7-hour flight from France. These jets will be delivered in India nearly four years after the two countries inked an inter-governmental agreement to supply 36 of the multi-role jets to IAF.
The first 5 #IAF#Rafales have taken off from Dassault Aviation Facility, Merignac, #France today morning. These 5 include 3 single-seater and 2 twin-seater aircraft. The ferry is planned in two stages & is being undertaken by IAF pilots. 1/2#RafaleJetpic.twitter.com/0TWU5zlgvQ- Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) July 27, 2020
All five Rafale jets started their journey to India from the Merignac airbase in French city of Bordeaux. The aircraft will cover around 7,000 km with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop in the United Arab Emirates before arriving at Ambala airbase, said officials.
The jets will formally be inducted in IAF as part of its No 17 Squadron, also known as the Golden Arrows on July 29, Wednesday at the Ambala Airbase, located near the Line of Control (LoC) to avoid any misadventure from across the border.
"The aircraft are likely to arrive at Air Force Station, Ambala, on July 29 subject to weather (condition)," the IAF said.
The Indian embassy in Paris, in a statement, said "Delivery of 10 aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five will stay back in France for training mission. The delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021."
The first Rafale jet was handed over to IAF in October 2019 to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh during his visit to France.
Indian Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf called "them (Rafale) both beauty and the beast." He added "Our air force pilots tell us that these are extremely swift, nimble, versatile and very deadly aircraft," while congratulating IAF pilots on becoming the first ones to fly one of the world's most advanced fighter jet.
The envoy also thanked the French government and French Air Force and Dassault Aviation for delivering the fleet on time.
"This (the fleet) is going to add a great deal of air power to our defence preparedness. This is also a powerful symbol of the strategic partnership between India and France," Ashraf added.
Official sources said that the Rafale is also likely to be deployed in Ladakh as part of IAF's efforts to enhance its operational capabilities along Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
Rafale is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European arms manufacturer MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be a major aid of the weapons package for these jets.
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 Meteor missile is powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor which gives it far more power for much longer than any other missile, said an official.
Rafale jets will also feature various India-specific modifications which include - Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems.
(With agency inputs)