In a major boost to the firepower of the Indian Air Force, the first four Rafales would start arriving in India by July-end this year from France, reports ANI.
The aircraft was supposed to be delivered by May-end but due to the Covid-19 situation in both India and France, its delivery was postponed by two months.
"The first four aircraft including three twin-seater trainer aircraft and one single-seater fighter aircraft would start arriving by the end of July at the Ambala airbase,” defence sources were quoted in the report as saying.
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, they added.
These aircraft are first four of the 36 Rafale fighter jets that India is purchasing from France under a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore signed in September 2016.
According to the report, the commanding officer of the IAF’s 17 Golden Arrows’ Squadron and a French pilot will pilot the first aircraft that will arrive in India.
On their way to India, the aircraft would be refuelled mid-air by a French Air Force tanker aircraft, following which they would make a stopover in the Middle-East.
"From Middle East to India, there would be one mid-air refuelling done by the Indian IL-78 tanker before they land in India," sources said.
The aircraft could have directly come to India but a 10-hour flight could have been stressful sitting inside a small cockpit, the sources said.
Meanwhile, the first batch of seven Indian pilots has also finished their training at a French airbase. The second batch of pilots would be going to France as soon as the lockdown restrictions are relaxed in both countries.
As per the report, the Rafale aircraft, armed with long-range Meteor air-to-air as well as SCALP missiles, would give India an edge over both China and Pakistan in terms of air strike capability.
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