A third batch of three Rafale fighter jets landed in India on Wednesday evening after flying non-stop from France, in a further boost to the strike capability of the Indian Air Force when India and China are engaged in a bitter border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

With the arrival of the new batch, the number of the Rafale aircraft has increased to 11.

“The third batch of three Rafale aircraft landed at an IAF base a short while ago. They flew over 7000Km with in-flight refuelling. The aircraft got airborne earlier in the day from #IstresAirBase in France. IAF deeply appreciates the tanker support provided by UAE Air Force,” the Indian Air Force said in a tweet.

The Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) of the United Arab Emirates provided mid-air refuelling to the three Rafale jets.

“Three more #Rafale jets take off from France for a nonstop flight to India with mid air refueling by UAE MRTT; Adding more strength to India’s air power. Wishing our amazing pilots smooth flight&safe landing with superb fighter jets,” the Indian embassy in France tweeted earlier.

The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, 2020, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.

The second batch of three Rafale jets arrived in India on November 3.

The Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 year after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

The new fleet of Rafale jets has been carrying out sorties in eastern Ladakh.

The Rafale jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Scalp cruise missile and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.

The IAF is also procuring a new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets.

Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defence major Safran.

The missile was originally designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy.

Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.

The first squadron of the Rafale jets is stationed at Ambala air base while the second one will be based at Hasimara base in West Bengal.