Paris: Indian Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf on Monday interacted with the pilots of Rafale fighter aircraft before their take off from Merignac in France and wished them a safe flight to India with a single hop.
“Indian Ambassador to #France interacts with the Indian pilots of the Rafale. Congratulates and wishes them a safe flight to India with a single hop,” the Indian Embassy in France said in a tweet, along with a picture of the Indian Rafale with tail number RB-005 in the background. RB stands for Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria.
At least five Rafale jets would be arriving in India from France today to join the Indian Air Force fleet in Ambala in Haryana on July 29. Their advanced weaponry including the long-range SCALP and Meteor missiles would have reached India before their touchdown.
The first five Rafale fighter aircraft would start arriving in India by July 29 flown by pilots of the 17 Golden Arrows commanding officer.
“The new Rafales add strategic depth and strength to India’s air combat capabilities. They fly out of France today to join the growing Indian fleet of aircrafts,” the Indian Embassy added further.
The delivery of the aircraft was earlier supposed to have been done by May end but this was postponed by two months in view of the COVID-19 situation in both India and France.
The trainers will have the tail numbers of the RB series in honour of the Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria who played a pivotal role in finalising India’s largest-ever defence deal for 36 Rafale combat aircraft.
The aircraft on their way from France to India would be refuelled by a French Air Force tanker aircraft in the air around Israel or Greece before they make a stopover at an airbase in UAE before leaving for India.
India had signed a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the Indian Air Force.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria was the Deputy Chief of Air Staff at that time and headed the Indian negotiation team for the deal, which is the biggest ever in monetary terms in India.
Armed with the long-range Meteor-air-to-air-missiles and SCALP, the Rafales would give India an edge over both Pakistan and China in terms of air strike capability.
Defence sources told ANI that the air to air and the air to ground strike capabilities of the Rafale cannot be matched by both China and Pakistan and the aircraft would give India an edge over both the rivals. (ANI)