Three more Rafale combat aircraft landed in India on Wednesday night after flying non-stop from France, an Indian Air Force (IAF) official said.
The fourth batch of the three IAF Rafales landed at the Jamnagar base — on Indian soil — after a direct flight from Istres Air Base in France.
With three more jets, the IAF has received 14 jets till now out of the 36 ordered from France.
“The three Rafale aircraft landed at an Indian Air Force base a short while ago. They flew over 7,000 km with in-flight refuelling. The aircraft got airborne earlier in the day from Istres Air Base in France,” the Indian Air Force official said.
The jets were refuelled mid air by UAE Air Force tankers, completing a 7,000 km journey in 10 hours.
The Rafale combat aircraft is manufactured by French company Dassault Aviation.
Earlier on Wednesday, Embassy of India in France said: “Another batch of Rafale takes to the skies on non-stop flight to India with mid-air refueling by UAE.”
The remaining aircraft are likely to be in India by April 22. Currently, IAF pilots are being trained in France.
Earlier in March, the Air Force said that they are to raise second squadron of Rafale jets at Hasimara Air Force base in West Bengal by April to counter threats from China.
It is a strategic base for Air Force operations because of its proximity to Bhutan.
The Chumbi Valley where the tri-junction lies between India-Bhutan and China is close to Doklam where a standoff took place in 2017. The tri-junction has been matter of concern for all the three nations.
“Second Rafale Squadron is being raised at the next Main Operating Base (MOB) Hasimara in mid April this year,” an Indian Air Force official had stated.
The first squadron was raised in Ambala after the first batch of the five Rafale aircraft landed on July 29, 2020.
These aircraft were inducted on September 10 at Ambala Air Base to 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ Squadron.
The two squadrons of Rafale will add wings to the IAF’s depleting fleet strength.
The two squadrons with 18 jets each at Ambala and Hasimara have been planned keeping in mind the operations against Pakistan on the western front and China in the eastern sector.
Hasimara earlier had a MiG 27 squadron that has now been decommissioned.
India had inked 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.
The Rafale is a 4.5 generation aircraft and has the latest weapons, superior sensors and fully integrated architecture.
It is an omni-role aircraft which means it can carry out at least four missions in one sortie.
The fighter aircraft have HAMMER missiles. It will also be armed with beyond visual range missiles like Meteor, SCALP and MICA, increasing their ability to take on incoming targets from a distance.