India's first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft is on its way home. Indian Air Force today posted photos of the aircraft getting re-fuelled mid-air before it reaches the country on Wednesday, where the much-awaited fighter jets will officially be inducted and join the Indian Air Force fleet at the Ambala air base in Haryana.
"The fleet, comprising three single seater and two twin seater aircraft, is scheduled to arrive at Ambala airbase on Wednesday when they will be officially inducted into the Indian Air Force as part of its No 17 Squadron, also known as the “Golden Arrows", said an IAF official.
In the photos, the fighter jets are seen re-fuelling mid-air from a French Air Force tanker before their scheduled stopover at the Al-Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates.
The first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft on Monday took off from France for India, nearly four years after the two countries inked an inter-governmental agreement to supply 36 of the multi-role jets to the Indian Air Force under a ₹59,000-crore deal.
The aircraft flew out from the Merignac airbase in the French port city of Bordeaux and covered a distance of nearly 7,000 km with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop in the United Arab Emirates before arriving at the destination, officials said.
On Monday evening, officials said all five Rafales landed safely in Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE after a sortie in excess of seven hours.
"Delivery of 10 aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five will stay back in France for training mission. The delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021," the Indian embassy in Paris said in a statement.
The Air Force has said that once the planes arrive in India, "efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest."
The Rafale fighter jets are capable of carrying a range of highly effective weapons, including the Meteor air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile.
Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.