Updated: July 29, 2020 2:38:47 pm
The first batch of the much-awaited Rafale fighter jets took off from France today (July 27) and are enroute to India. India had bought 36 twin-engine fighter planes from Dassault Rafale for an estimated Rs 58,000 crore, through an inter-governmental agreement signed in 2016.
How many jets are coming right now?
The first batch includes five aircraft, being flown by Indian Air Force pilots. They took off from the Merignac airbase near Bordeaux in France.
The first fighter jet was handed over to the Indian Air Force in October 2019, in France, in a ceremony attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and French Minister for Armed Forces Florence Parly.
Ten aircraft have been delivered on schedule, as per a statement by the Indian Embassy in France on Monday. Of these ten, five have left for India, while the other five will remain in France for training missions.
When will they reach India?
The first five Rafale fighter jets will reach Ambala Air Force Station on Wednesday.
Rafale aircrafts maneuvered by the world’s best pilots, soar into the sky. Emblematic of new heights in India-France defence collaboration #ResurgentIndia #NewIndia@IAF_MCC @MeaIndia @rajnathsingh @Dassault_OnAir @DefenceMinIndia @PMOIndia@JawedAshraf5 @DDNewslive @ANI pic.twitter.com/FrEQYROWSv
— India in France (@Indian_Embassy) July 27, 2020
The distance covered by them is close to 7,000 kms, and will require air-to-air refuelling. While the distance can be covered within a day as well, with the refuelling, it has been planned that the jets will make a stop in United Arab Emirates.
They will be taken to the Al Dhafra French air base near Abu Dabhi on Monday, and will take off from there for Ambala on Wednesday morning.
Are all the five jets the same?
No, the jets India has bought are a mix of single-seater and two-seater planes. The jets on their way to India are also a mix of both.
Interestingly, the twin-seater air planes have the current Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria’s initials, “RB”, as he played a significant role in negotiating the deal.
The single-seater aircraft have the initials of the last chief of Air Force, retired Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa.
When will the other jets come?
Of the ten delivered to the Air Force, five are in France for training. Pilots and support personnel of the Indian Air Force have been given complete training about the aircraft and the weapon systems by Dassault in France.
According to the Indian Embassy in France, IAF batches will continue to be trained in France for the next nine months.
The delivery of all the 36 jets is scheduled by the end of 2021.
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What happens when they reach India?
The aircraft will be inducted at Air Force Station Ambala on Wednesday, subject to weather, IAF had said on July 20. The final induction ceremony will take place in the second half of August.
The IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems, which are fully operational now. Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest, IAF had stated.
The immediate focus when they reach will be to ensure that the pilots and ground crew put their heads down and become integrated with the overall IAF operations at the earliest. Further, it is important that the ferry-in of fighters as well as move of support crew is completed safely and swiftly.
Which squadron will they join?
The first jets will comprise the resurrected No 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron of the Air Force, and will be stationed in Ambala. The Golden Arrows were raised in 1951 and have been involved in a number of significant operations through their history, including the Kargil War. But after the Air Force started to phase out the Mig-21, which were operated by the Golden Arrows, the squadron was disbanded in 2016.
It has been resurrected now for the multi-role, state-of-the-art Rafale.
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