New Delhi: The fifth batch of Rafale fighter jets reached India from a military airbase in France today. The jets were flagged off by Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria from Merignac Air Base amid his ongoing five-day official visit to France. The fighter jets flew a distance of almost 8,000 km non-stop with air-to-air refuelling support by France and UAE’s Air Force.
“After a direct ferry from #MerignacAirBase, France, the 5th batch of Rafales arrived in India on 21 April. The fighters flew a distance of almost 8,000Kms with air-to-air refuelling support by @Armee_de_lair (France Air Force) and UAE AF. IAF thanks both the Air Forces for their co-operation,” the Indian Air Force (IAF) tweeted today, along with the video of Rafale jets landing in India.
The Indian embassy or the Air Force did not mention the number of aircraft flagged off by the IAF Chief.
The first batch of five Rafale jets had arrived in India on July 29 last year.
Earlier in the day, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria visited a Rafale aircraft training facility on the third day of his five-day visit to France. He also thanked the French aerospace industry for ensuring timely delivery of the jets.
“Air Chief Mshl RKS Bhadauria on an official tour to France lauds pilots and sees off the next batch of Rafales on a non stop flight to India with mid air refueling by French Air force and UAE. Thanks France especially FASF and French Industry for timely delivery and pilot training on schedule despite COVID,” the Indian embassy in France tweeted.
The IAF Chief said some of the Rafale aircraft have been delivered a “little bit” ahead of time and it has contributed to the overall combat potential of the Air Force.
“This ferry, which is fifth from here, marks the end of the third batch of our pilots and all our maintenance crew. The Rafale training centre has provided world class training and it is because of the level and quality of training that we were able to operationalise the aircraft quickly,” he said, according to news agency PTI.
The arrival of the new batch of the aircraft will pave the way for the IAF to raise a second squadron of the Rafale jets. The new squadron will be based in Hasimara air base in West Bengal. The first Rafale squadron is based in Ambala air force station. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around ₹ 58,000 crore. So far, 14 Rafale jets are operating in the Indian Air Force.