First Batch of Five Indian Air Force Rafale Fighter Jets Departs France for India

The first batch of five Indian Air Force Rafale fighter jets, built by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, departed Dassault Aviation Mérignac facility for India on July 27.

These five jets include three single seater and two twin seater aircraft. They will cover a distance of nearly 7000 kms from France to India.

The ferry of the aircraft is planned in two stages and will be undertaken by the pilots of the IAF, who have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft. The Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) planned during the first leg of the ferry, which will take the aircraft to Al Dhafra Air Base in UAE, will be undertaken by these pilots with dedicated tanker support from the French Air Force.

The jets are scheduled to arrive at Ambala Air Force Station in the state of Haryana on July 29 subject to weather conditions. No 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”, is being raised at this base equipped with Rafale aircraft.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) Rafale fighter jet takes off from Dassault Aviation Mérignac facility in France for its ferry flight to India on July 27, 2020. Dassault Aviation Photo.

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. This ceremony was attended by the French Minister for Armed Forces Florence Parly and the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

As of now, the delivery of ten Rafale aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five of these aircraft will stay back in France for training mission. The delivery of all 36 aircraft is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

In accordance with the contract. IAF pilots and supporting personnel have been provided full training on aircraft and weapon systems by Dassault. Further batches of IAF personnel will continue the training over the next nine months.

India‘s Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf said that the long awaited and much needed two squadrons of Rafale would add great strength to IAF and our defence capabilities. He met the Indian Air Force pilots and wished them a safe flight to India. He congratulated them on becoming the first Indian pilots to fly one of the world’s tnost advanced and potent lighter aircraft and wished them success in meeting the nation’s expectation of playing an important role in India’s defence. He also thanked French Air force for support and Dassault for delivering the aircraft on schedule despite the ongoing pandemic crisis.

Eric Trappier, the Dassault Aviation and Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather, the Air Attache to France, were also present on the occasion apart from other officials.

India and France have a long history of cooperation in fighter aircraft which includes India’s acquisition of French Toofanis in 1953, then Mystere, Jaguars and the Mirages.

Indian Air Force (IAF)’s Dassault Rafale fighter jet (RB 003) at Dassault Aviation Mérignac facility in France preparing for its ferry flight to India, July 27, 2020. Pic Courtesy: Indian Embassy Paris.

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