The first batch of the five Rafale fighter jets has landed at the Ambala air base to join the Indian Air Force fleet. PM Modi welcomed the fighter jets, greeted them with a special salute.
The first batch of Rafale fighter aircraft had started their journey on Monday from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux. After covering a distance of 7,000 km they landed at the Ambala Air Force base. After they entered the Indian air space, they were escorted by Sukhoi 30 MKIs and They landed at the Al Dhafra base in UAE on Tuesday night an overnight stopover.
Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria was present at the airbase to receive them.
The defence minister Rajnath Singh welcomed the jets in India and said that the birds have landed safely. The touch down of Rafale aircraft marks the beginning of a new era in our military history.
The fleet comprised three single-seater and two double-seater jets. These jets were flown by IAF pilots for seven hours with the help of the mid-air refuellers. The Rafale jets were accompanied by two A330 Phoenix MRTT planes for midair refuelling.
These will be a part of the Indian Air Force’s No 17 Squadron, also known as the ‘Golden Arrows’. India had signed a Rs 59,000-crore inter-government deal with France on September 23, 2016, to procure 36 Rafale jets. These jets are manufactured by Dassault Aviation. The entire contingent is to be delivered by 2022.
The area around the Ambala airbase has been declared as a ‘no-drone area’ and there is heavy security around the airbase. It is a sensitive zone as the airbase is located around 200 km from the border with Pakistan. The large gatherings were also banned and Section 144 was imposed in the nearby four villages before for the historic touchdown.
The fighter jets are considered as a game-changer and are expected to give a mega-boost to India’s air power amid tensions with China and Pakistan. It will take a while to get them fully operational. Once ready, the Rafales are said to be more powerful than Pakistani F-16 and JF-17 as well as the Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighters. The jet will enhance the offensive capabilities of Indian Air Force as it has the ability to carry out missions like ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance and nuclear strike deterrence.