Rafales have arrived: First batch of 5 jets land at Ambala airbase

New Delhi (NVI): The first batch of five Rafale jets have landed safely at Ambala airbase safely after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km. The fighter jets took off from Mérignac in France on Monday and had a one-day stopover at the Al Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi.

As soon as the five jets entered the Indian airspace, they were escorted by two Sukhoi-30MKI fighters to the airbase in Ambala. The Ambala administration sealed roads leading to the Air Force Station in Haryana till 5 pm as a security blanket was thrown around the area to prevent any photography and videography of the aircraft on arrival.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took to Twitter after the landing of Rafales and said their touch down marks the beginning of a new era in India’s military history.

“The Birds have landed safely in Ambala. The touch down of Rafale combat aircraft in India marks the beginning of a new era in our Military History. These multirole aircraft will revolutionise the capabilities of the @IAF_MCC,” he tweeted.

This is the first tranche of French fighter aircraft, of the total 36 ordered by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The aircraft will be officially inducted into the IAF in the second half of August.

The Defence Minister also congratulated the IAF on a professionally executed ferry of the multirole aircraft. “I am sure that 17 Squadron, the Golden Arrows, will continue to live upto their motto of “Udayam Ajasram”. I am extremely happy that IAF’s combat capability has got a timely boost,” He said in a tweet while indirectly referring to the present security situation with China due to border row at LAC.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also welcomed the arrival of first batch of five Rafale jets at the IAF station in Ambala. Taking to Twitter, the PM shared a Sanskrit slogan while sharing a video of the landing of the aircraft.

Chief of Air Staff, RKS Bhadauria was also at the strategically important Ambala airbase to receive the Rafale jets, India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in over two decades.

Security was tightened near the airbase, located around 200 km from the border with Pakistan, and large gatherings were banned in four villages nearby.

The jets were flown by Indian pilots who have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft. The Rafales will be a part of the IAF’s No. 17 Squadron, which is also known as the “Golden Arrows”.

While the French air force refuelled the fighters — three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft — using its Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft on their way to Al Dhafra, aerial refuelling support was provided by the IAF’s Russian Ilyushin-78 refuellers for the second leg of the journey from Al Dhafra to Ambala.

The planes are expected to boost India’s air power massively amid tensions with China and Pakistan.