Nearly 23 years after Sukhoi aircraft were imported, a fleet of five French-manufactured Rafale multi-role combat jets touched down in India, giving the country’s air power a strategic edge over its adversaries in the neighbourhood.
The aircraft, having an undisputed track record and considered one of the most potent combat jets globally, landed at the Ambala Air Force base after covering a distance of 7,000 km from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux.
The Rafales were escorted by two Sukhoi 30 MKIs after they entered the Indian air space.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the arrival of the first batch of five Rafale jets with a tweet in Sanskrit which refers to the obligation of protecting one’s nation being supreme.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took to Twitter moments after the five jets safely landed at Amabala Air Force station.
“The Birds have landed safely in Ambala. The touch down of Rafale combat aircrafts in India marks the beginning of a new era in our Military History. These multirole aircrafts will revolutionise the capabilities of the IAF,” Singh tweeted.
Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria received the jets when the fleet arrives at the strategically key airbase.
The fleet, comprising three single seater and two twin seater aircraft, will be inducted into the IAF as part of its No 17 Squadron, also known as the ‘Golden Arrows’. However, a formal induction ceremony will be held around mid-August which is expected to be attended by the Defence Minister and top military brass of the country.
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.