New Delhi: After almost two decades, India will induct a new multirole foreign fighter aircraft, as five Rafale combat aircraft would join its Air Force fleet today in Ambala.
The last foreign fighters inducted into the Air Force were the Sukhoi-30s from Russia which have now become the mainstay of the Air Force after multiple orders in view of delays in placing orders for new western aircraft.
“As per plans, five Rafale fighters would be taking off from Al Dhafra air bade in UAE shortly and reaching Ambala around 2 pm today,” IAF sources said.
The aircraft would be received by IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria who played a crucial role in the acquisition of these aircraft as in-charge of the Indian negotiating team for the Rs 60,000 crore defence deal which is the biggest ever to have been signed by India.
He would also be probably the first Chief to receive fighter aircraft from abroad with his initials on the tail number of the plane as the two trainer Rafale aircraft coming today have RB written on their tails, sources said.
The Indian Rafales are expected to take off from Al Dhafra in UAE at around 11 AM IST and reach Ambala by 2 PM, they said.
The weather and other conditions are at the moment looking good and it is expected to reach the Ambala airbase on time.
The backup base for the arrival of the aircraft, in case there is a weather issue in and around Ambala, would be the Jodhpur airbase.
Once the aircraft lands in Ambala, the pilots led by Group Captain Harkirat Singh would meet the IAF chief and brief him about their flying and training in France.
The pilots will follow the coronavirus related protocols before starting their operational flying after that.
The formal induction ceremony of the aircraft would be held later. The Rafale aircraft would move out soon to another operational base for operational sorties.
The first five Rafale fighter aircraft arriving today are flown by pilots of the 17 Golden Arrows led by Commanding Officer Group Captain Harkirat Singh along with other pilots, Wing Commanders MK Singh, R Kataria, Sidhu and Arun. Harkirat Singh is also likely to be the first pilot to touchdown at the base in Ambala.
The delivery of the aircraft was earlier supposed to have been done by May end but was postponed by two months in view of the COVID-19 situation in both India and France.
The aircraft on their way from France to India were refuelled by a French Air Force tanker aircraft in the air around Israel or Greece before they made a stopover in the Middle East.
India had signed a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the IAF.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria was the Deputy Chief of Air Staff at that time and headed the Indian negotiation team for the deal which is the biggest ever in monetary terms in India.
Armed with the long-range Meteor air to air missiles, SCALP long-range air to ground missiles, and 60 km-strike range HAMMERs, the Rafales would give India an edge over both Pakistan and China in terms of air strike capability.
Sources said the air to air and the air to ground strike capabilities of the Rafale cannot be matched by both China and Pakistan and the aircraft would give India an edge over both the rivals.