Rafale pilots get a warm welcome at the Ambala air base

Srinagar, July 29: The first five Indian Air Force (IAF) Rafale fighter jets landed at the Air Force Station, Ambala on Wednesday afternoon. These fighter jets went airborne from Dassault Aviation Facility, Merignac, France on the morning of July 27 and reached India this afternoon with a planned stopover enroute at Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE.

An Indian Defence ministry spokesman said the ferry was planned in two stages and was undertaken by IAF pilots. The fighter jets, he said, covered a distance of nearly 8,500 km from France to India. First stage of the flight covered a distance of 5,800 km in seven and a half hours. 

Rafale fighter jet lands at the Ambala air base on Wednesday (Photo: IAF)

French Air Force (FAF) Tanker provided dedicated Air-to-Air Refueling support during the flight. The second stage of the flight covering over 2,700 km was carried out with Air-to-Air Refueling by IAF Tanker.

“IAF deeply appreciates the proactive support provided by the French government and industry in France to ensure timely delivery. The tanker support extended by French Air Force during the ferry was crucial in ensuring that the long haul flight was accomplished successfully and in a time bound manner,” said the Defence ministry spokesperson.

The Rafale fighter jets, he said, will be a part of 17 Squadron, the “Golden Arrows”, which was resurrected on September 10, 2019. The Squadron was originally raised at Air Force Station, Ambala on October 1, 1951. The 17 Squadron has many firsts to its credit; in 1955 it was equipped with first jet fighter, the legendary De Havilland Vampire. In August 1957, the Squadron became the first to convert on to a swept wing fighter, the Hawker Hunter.

A formal induction ceremony of Rafale aircraft in 17 Squadron is scheduled to be held in the second half of August 2020. Details of the ceremony will be intimated in due course, the spokesperson added.

Sageer Ahmad
Sageer Ahmad
Sageer Ahmad is a research scholar based in Jammu & Kashmir.

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