On Wednesday, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said the fifth batch of Rafale aircraft had arrived in India after flying a distance of almost 8,000 km from France.
The IAF did not publish the number of aircraft that landed in India but people accustomed to the development said four jets were part of the new batch.
The IAF said mid-air refuelling to the squadron was provided by the air forces of France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“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 8,000 Kms with air-to-air refuelling support by @Armee_de_lair and UAE AF. IAF thanks both the Air Forces for their co-operation,” it said in a tweet.
At first, the aircraft was flagged off from the Merignac airbase in France by Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who is on a visit to France.
On the third day of his five-day visit to the European country, the IAF chief also visited a Rafale aircraft training centre.
“Air Chief Mshl RKS Bhadauria on an official tour to France lauds pilots & sees off the next batch of Rafales on a non stop flight to India with mid air refueling by French Air force & UAE. Thanks France esp FASF & French Industry for timely delivery & pilot training on schedule despite covid,” the Indian embassy in France wrote on Twitter.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria, in his brief remarks, 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 IAF.
Before his visit, military officials in Delhi said Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria’s trip to France is supposed to boost cooperation between the IAF and the French Air and Space Force (FASF).
“This ferry, which is the 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.
For providing the required support for the training programme as well as for the ferrying of the aircraft to India, the IAF chief also thanked the French government and the French air force.
The arrival of the new batch of the aircraft will make way for the IAF to raise a second squadron of Rafale jets. The new squadron will be based at the Hasimara airbase in West Bengal.
The first Rafale squadron is based at the Ambala air force station. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft.
In September 2016, India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France for the obtainment of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
By the arrival of the new batch, the number of Rafale jets with the IAF has gone up to 18.
On July 29 last year, the first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India.
On Tuesday, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria held talks with General Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of the FASF, on ways to further increase cooperation between the two sides.