New Delhi: A batch of five Rafale fighter jets left this afternoon at Ambala Airport for a special water canon salute, the first Western fighter aircraft to join the Indian Air Force after 23 years of importing Sukhoi planes. The French-built Rafale Multi-Role Combat Jet traveled about 7,000 km and two Sukhoi survived after entering the Indian air space by 30 MKIs.
The fleet, including three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft, will be part of the Air Force’s No. 17 Squadron, also known as the ‘Golden Arrow’.
The Indian Air Force tweeted in “Arrow Formation” with a photo of Rafals, “Welcome home ‘Golden Arrow’. Blue skies forever.”
Defense Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that the “birds” landed safely in Ambala.
Rajnath Singh said in a series of tweets, “The touch of Rafale fighter jets in India marks the beginning of a new era in our military history. These multirole aircraft will reshape the capabilities of the Air Force.”
This is the first batch of 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation in a Rs 59,000-crore deal signed by the government on September 23, 2016. The planes are expected to provide a mega-boost to India’s air power amid tension between China and Pakistan.
Pilots of Indian Air Force officers flew from Merignac in southwest France on Monday. Great views posted by the Air Force yesterday showed planes refueling from a French tanker at an altitude of 30,000 feet.
The jets made a stopover at Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, where France has its airport. Soon after flying from the United Arab Emirates, Rafaels established contact with Indian Navy warship INS Kolkata in the Western Naval Sea. “Welcome to the Indian Ocean… can you touch the sky with pride,” a naval warship was heard recounting in an audio to a Rafael commander.
There is heavy security around the airbase, located about 200 kilometers from the border with Pakistan, and large gatherings were banned in four nearby villages for historic touchdowns. People were asked not to assemble on the roofs and filming or photography was banned.
The French Air Force had two A330 Phoenix MRTT refueling aircraft with Rafael jets, one of which had 70 ventilators, 100,000 test kits and a team of 10 health experts to assist in the fight against the coronovirus.
The first Rafale jet was delivered to the IAF by the Defense Minister during a visit to France when it was officially launched in October last year. Stayed in France for training aircraft pilots and mechanics. The entire unit has to be delivered by 2022.
Ambala Air Base has two squadrons of Jaguar fighter aircraft and one squadron of MIG-21 Bison. The Mirage fighters were used for India’s airstrikes in Balakot, Pakistan last year after the Pulwama terror attack.