Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria, who is on a visit to France, on Wednesday flagged off four Rafale fighter jets from Merignac-Bordeaux airbase to India.
This is the fifth ferry of Rafale jets from France to India and their arrival will take the total number of French-origin fighters in the IAF inventory to 18, a report by the Hindustan Times said.
“Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on an official tour to France lauds pilots & sees off the next batch of Rafales on a nonstop flight to India with mid-air refuelling by French Air force & UAE. Thanks France esp FASF (French Air and Space Force) & French Industry for timely delivery & pilot training on schedule despite COVID-19,” the Indian embassy in France said on Twitter.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria reached France on a five-day official visit on April 19. The fighters are expected to land at an Indian airbase late Wednesday night.
India ordered 36 warplanes from France (equivalent of two squadrons) in September 2016 for ₹59,000 crore under a government-to-government deal.
Four Rafale Jets to Complete Squadron
The arrival of four jets will enable the completion of the first squadron of these fighters in Ambala and set the stage for raising the second squadron at Hasimara in West Bengal. All the 36 planes are likely to join the IAF’s fighter fleet by the year-end.
After a direct ferry from #MerignacAirBase, France, the 5th batch of Rafales arrived in India on 21 Apr. The fighters flew a distance of almost 8,000Kms with air-to-air refuelling support by @Armee_de_lair and UAE AF. IAF thanks both the Air Forces for their co-operation. pic.twitter.com/jp81vODCp2
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) April 21, 2021
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria, who visited the Rafale conversion training centre in France on Wednesday, said, “The 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.”
The Air Chief Marshal added that it is to the credit of the French industry that despite the COVID-19 restrictions, they were able to meet the training requirements in time, and deliver all the aircraft so far more or less in time. He said some planes had been delivered ahead of time.
“This has really contributed to the overall combat potential of the IAF. I would like to thank the French government, French air force and the industry,” he said.
The IAF has operated the fighter jets in the Ladakh theatre where the military is on high alert amid a border standoff with China and where both sides are negotiating disengagement of troops at friction points along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC).