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J C Menon

India has taken delivery of the first batch of five RAFALE fighters, with the aircraft scheduled for arrival in India tomorrow, when they will officially be inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) fleet.

“The aircraft are likely to arrive at Air Force Station, Ambala, on 29th July 2020, subject to weather. The “Golden Arrows – 17 Squadron”, is being raised at this base equipped with RAFALE aircraft”, an MoD spokesman said.

The RAFALE fighter jets, built by French aviation firm Dassault, took off from the Merignac airbase in Bordeaux, Southern France, after which the aircraft will cover a distance of nearly 7000 kms from France to India with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop en route at Abu Dhabi. The Indian Embassy in France said the event marked a “new milestone” in defence cooperation.

In a statement, the IAF said,“No media coverage is planned on arrival. The final induction ceremony will take place in second half of August wherein full media coverage would be planned.”

The beginning

The first RAFALE was handed over to the IAF in October 2019 with the delivery of 10 aircraft completed on schedule. Five will remain in France for training missions and the delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021. India’s ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf witnessed the handover and take off of aircraft.

“These five RAFALE jets are extremely swift, versatile and very deadly aircraft, they’re both beauty and beast. I would like to thank Dassault for delivering aircraft on time and French Government and French Air Force for all the support,” said Ambassador Ashraf.

India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 RAFALES at an estimated cost of US$9bn. The agreement also covers weapon systems for the aircraft, supply of spare parts and maintenance for five years in addition to performance-based logistics. Of the 36 jets, 30 will be fighters and six will be trainer aircraft, though the trainers will be twin-seat with almost all the features of the fighters.

MBDA’s METEOR beyond visual range air-to-air missile and SCALP cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package. Acting on a special request by the IAF, France has accelerated the deliveries of RAFALE fighters to India, five jets are coming instead of four that were originally planned to be delivered in the first batch. France handed over the first aircraft during a ceremony attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in Merignac on 8th October last year.