The first five of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft bought by India from France's Dassault Aviation are being flown from the manufacturing plant by Indian Air Force pilots to India between July 27-29.
India in May 2017 put forward an official request for information for the supply of 57 combat planes intended for the Indian navy and another in July 2018 for 110 jets intended for the Indian Air Force.
The first leg is to the Al Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates where the aircraft landed on Monday afternoon. "But it is also a powerful symbol of the strategic partnership between India and France", said India's Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf before the jets took off. The aircraft will integrate into the country's No 17 Squadron, dubbed "Golden Arrows". As per the contract the delivery of all the 36 aircraft is scheduled for the end of 2021. Delivery of ten rafale aircrafts have been completed on schedule.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.
Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems, among others.
For a while now, the IAF had been seen as handicapped vis-a-vis its challengers in the region, notably the Pakistan Air Force.
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The first Rafale fighter was handed over to IAF in October 2019 in a ceremony attended by the French Minister for Armed Forces Madame Florence Parly and Defence Minister Mr Rajnath Singh.
He also thanked French Air force for support and Dassault for delivering the aircraft on schedule despite the ongoing pandemic crisis.
The training has been going on in batches and the training goes on in the facility of Dassault Aviation.
Mr Trappier congratulated the Indian Air Force team present in France since nearly 3 years, for successful management of the program.
French defence major Dassault Aviation, which is manufacturing the Rafale jets, had since October previous year handed over a total of nine aircraft to the IAF.