The first batch of five Indian Air Force (IAF) Rafale fighter jets is likely to arrive in India by July end, the Ministry of Defence announced.
The aircraft is scheduled to be inducted at Air Force Station Ambala in the state of Haryana on July 29 subject to weather.
The MOD statement said that no media coverage is planned on arrival. The statement added that the final induction ceremony will take place in second half of August 20 wherein full media coverage would be planned.
According to the MoD, IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now. Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest.
In 2016, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition for $8.8 billion. Out of the 36 Rafales ordered for the IAF, 28 are single-seat jets, designated Rafale EH, and the remaining are dual-seat jets, designated Rafale DH.
The Air Force “technically” accepted the first Rafale, twin-seat version of the jet, during a ceremony in Bordeaux on Sept. 19. The aircraft, with tail number RB-001, was accepted by a team led by IAF Deputy Chief Air Marshal VR Chaudhari. RB in the tail number marks the role played by Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria in finalizing the deal to procure the jets in September 2016.
The Indian Air Force formally received its first Rafale aircraft during a ceremony at Dassault Aviation’s Rafale final assembly facility in Mérignac in Bordeaux, France on Oct. 8 last year.
All the 36 jets ordered is expected to arrive in the country by next year.
The first squadron of Rafales are to be stationed at Ambala Air Force Station, one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF around 220 km from the Indo-Pak border. Ambala’s future No. 17 Squadron “Golden Arrows” will have a final strength of 18 jets by 2022. The second squadron of 18 Rafales will be stationed at Hasimara AFS in West Bengal.