Five Rafale fighter jets operated by Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots took off from Merignac in France on Monday morning for India in a big boost to country's air power at a time of military stand-off with China.
These five jets include three single seater and two twin seater aircraft.
The aircraft are likely to arrive at Air Force Station, Ambala, on Wednesday subject to weather.
The Rafale aircraft will cover a distance of nearly 7000 kms from France to India with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop en route in UAE.
These flights are being undertaken by the IAF pilots who have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft. The air to air refuelling planned during the first leg of the ferry will be undertaken by these pilots with dedicated tanker support from the French Air Force.
The first Rafale fighter was handed over to IAF in October 2019 in a ceremony attended by the French Minister for Armed Forces Madame Florence Parly and Defence Minister Mr Rajnath Singh. The delivery of ten Rafale aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five will stay back in France for training mission. The delivery of all thirty six aircraft to IAF will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021.
In accordance with the contract, Indian Air Force pilots and supporting personnel have been provided full training on aircraft and weapon systems by Dassault. Further batches of Indian Air Force personnel will continue the training over the next nine months.
India’s Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf was there to see off the Rafale aircraft. He said that the long awaited and much needed two squadrons of Rafale would add great strength to IAF and our defence capabilities. He met the Indian Air Force pilots and wished them a safe flight to India. He congratulated them on becoming the first Indian pilots to fly one of the world’s most advanced and potent fighter aircraft and wished them success in meeting the nation’s expectation of playing an important role in India's defence.
He also thanked French Air force for support and Dassault for delivering the aircraft on schedule despite the ongoing pandemic crisis. Éric Trappier, Chairman Dassault Aviation and Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather, the Air Attaché to France, were also present on the occasion apart from other officials.
Mr Trappier congratulated the Indian Air Force team present in France since almost 3 years, for successful management of the program.
He also complimented the trainees who joined for more than a year on their outstanding ability to master the aircraft
India and France have a long history of cooperation in fighter aircraft, which includes India's acquisition of French Toofanis in 1953, then Mystere, Jaguars and the Mirages....