Five Rafale jets out of the 36 ordered from France will arrive on Wednesday (July 29) afternoon at Ambala, their home base after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km officials said.
Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria will receive the jets and the pilots flying them when they arrive at the strategically key airbase. Authorities tightened security and have imposed prohibitory orders near the Ambala Air Force Station, banning shooting of videos and photography.
The Ambala district administration has also prohibited people from flying private drones within the three-km radius of the air base, officials said earlier. Section 144, which prohibits assembly of four or more people, has been imposed in the villages adjoining the air base.
Haryana Police has set up several check barricades and police officers were seen patrolling residential localities near the air base, making announcements over loudspeakers warning people not to stand on the rooftop of their houses to click pictures or shoot videos.
The first batch of five jets took off from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux on Monday. They had a one-day stopover at the Al Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi after flying continuously for over seven hours. The fighters are accompanied by two A330 Phoenix MRTT refuelling planes at a height of 30,000 ft from the French Air Force. The IAF even shared pictures on Twitter thanking the French Air Force for their support.
Indian Air Force appreciates the support provided by French Air Force for our Rafale journey back home. @Armee_de_lair @Indian_Embassy @Dassault_OnAir #Rafale#IndianAirForce pic.twitter.com/7Ec8oqOJmr
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) July 28, 2020
The Rafale jets are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in over two decades, and they are expected to significantly boost the Indian Air Forces combat capabilities. India had inked a Rs 59,000-crore deal on September 23, 2016 to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.
Six Rafale trainer aircraft will carry RB series tail numbers which stand for Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who played a key role as lead negotiator for the mega deal.
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 on Wednesday afternoon. However, a formal induction ceremony will be held around mid-August which is expected to be attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and top military brass of the country.
The first Rafale jet was handed over to the IAF in October last year during a visit to France by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
While the first squadron of the Rafale jets will be stationed at Ambala airbase, the second one will based at Hasimara base in West Bengal. The Ambala base is considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF as the Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from it.
(With inputs from agencies)