The fifth batch of IAF aircraft arrived in India on late on Wednesday night after a direct ferry from Merignac Air Base in France. The four jets were flagged of by Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria earlier in the day from the military airbase in France. Bhadauria is on a five-day official visit to France.
The IAF shared a tweet stating the fighters jets flew a distance of almost 8,000kms with air-to-air refuelling support from the French and UAE air forces.
The arrival of the new batch of the aircraft will pave the way for the IAF to raise a second squadron of the Rafale jets. The new squadron will be based in Hasimara air base in West Bengal.
Bhadauria, who visited a Rafale aircraft training facility on the third day of his visit, also thanked the French aerospace industry for ensuring timely delivery of the jets.
“Air Chief Mshl RKS Bhadauria on an official tour to France lauds pilots and sees off the next batch of Rafales on a non stop flight to India with mid air refueling by French Air force and UAE. “Thanks France especially FASF and French Industry for timely delivery & pilot training on schedule despite COVID,” the Indian embassy in France tweeted.
In his brief remarks, the IAF Chief said some of the Rafale aircraft have been delivered a “little bit” ahead of time and it has contributed to the overall combat potential of the Indian Air Force (IAF). Ahead of his visit, military officials in Delhi said that his trip to France is expected to boost cooperation between the IAF and the French Air and Space Force (FASF).
“This ferry, which is fifth from here, marks the end of the third batch of our pilots and all our maintenance crew. The Rafale training centre has provided world class training and it is because of the level and quality of training that we were able to operationalise the aircraft quickly,” he said. He also thanked the French government, the French Air Force for providing the required support for the training programme as well as for ferrying of the aircraft to India.
The first Rafale squadron is based in Ambala air force station. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
So far, 14 Rafale jets are operating in the IAF and the number will go up to 18 after the arrival of the new batch. The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29 last.
On Tuesday, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria held talks with Gen Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of French Air and Space Force (FASF), on ways to further expand cooperation between the two sides.