The first batch of the much-awaited Rafale fighter jets took off from France on 27 July 2020 and are enroute to India. India had bought 36 twin-engine fighter planes from Dassault Rafale for an estimated Rs 58,000 crore, through an inter-governmental agreement signed in 2016. The first batch includes five aircraft, being flown by Indian Air Force pilots. They took off from the Merignac airbase near Bordeaux in France.
- The first fighter jet was handed over to the Indian Air Force in October 2019, in France, in a ceremony attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and French Minister for Armed Forces Florence Parly.
- Ten aircraft have been delivered on schedule, as per a statement by the Indian Embassy in France on 27 July 2020. Of these ten, five have left for India, while the other five will remain in France for training missions.
- The first five Rafale fighter jets will reach Ambala Air Force Station on 29 July 2020.
- The distance covered by them is close to 7,000 kms, and will require air-to-air refuelling. While the distance can be covered within a day as well, with the refuelling, it has been planned that the jets will make a stop in the United Arab Emirates.
- They will be taken to the Al Dhafra French air base near Abu Dabhi on 27 July 2020, and will take off from there for Ambala on 29 July 2020 morning.
- The aircraft will be inducted at Air Force Station Ambala on 29 July 2020, subject to weather, IAF had said on July 20. The final induction ceremony will take place in the second half of August.
- The immediate focus when they reach will be to ensure that the pilots and ground crew put their heads down and become integrated with the overall IAF operations at the earliest. Further, it is important that the ferry-in of fighters as well as move of support crew is completed safely and swiftly.
- The first jets will comprise the resurrected No 17 ‘Golden Arrows’ squadron of the Air Force, and will be stationed in Ambala.
- The Golden Arrows were raised in 1951 and have been involved in a number of significant operations throughout their history, including the Kargil War.
- But after the Air Force started to phase out the Mig-21, which were operated by the Golden Arrows, the squadron was disbanded in 2016.
- It has been resurrected now for the multi-role, state-of-the-art Rafale.