IAF Chief in France: Flags off new batch of Rafale jets for second squadron at Hasimara in West Bengal

IAF Chief in France: Flags off new batch of Rafale jets for second squadron at Hasimara in West Bengal

Hummingbird News Desk

KOLKATA, 21 APRIL: Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria flagged off four Multi Role Rafale Fighter Jets from Merignac-Bordeaux airbase in south-western France on 21 April, setting the stage for activating the second Rafale squadron at Hasimara in West Bengal.

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“After a direct ferry from #MerignacAirBase, France, the 5th batch of Rafales arrived in India on 21 Apr. The fighters flew a distance of almost 8,000Kms with air-to-air refuelling support by @Armee_de_lair and UAE AF. IAF thanks both the Air Forces for their co-operation,” Indian Air Force said in Twitter.

The four jets were planned to depart from the French Air Base and reach India on 28 April but the event was advanced by a week to coincide with IAF chief Rakesh Bhadauria’s visit. IAF chief, who is currently on an official visit to France also visited a Rafale aircraft training facility on the third day of his trip, and thanked the French aerospace industry for ensuring timely delivery of the jets.

“Air Chief Mshl RKS Bhadauria on an official tour to France lauds pilots and sees off the next batch of Rafales on a nonstop flight to India with mid air refueling by French Air force & UAE,” the Indian embassy in France said on Twitter.

In his brief remarks, the IAF Chief said some of the Rafale aircraft have been delivered a “little bit” ahead of time and it has contributed to the overall combat potential of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Air Chief Mshl RKS Bhadauria visited Rafale Conversion Training Center (CTC), Bordeaux- Merignac and interacted with the IAF contingent at the CTC facility.

“This ferry, which is fifth from here, marks the end of the third batch of our pilots and all our maintenance crew. The Rafale training centre has provided world class training and it is because of the level and quality of training that we were able to operationalise the aircraft quickly,” he said.

He also thanked the French government, the French Air Force for providing the required support for the training programme, despite COVID situation, as well as for ferrying of the aircraft to India.

The arrival of the new batch of the aircraft will pave the way for the IAF to raise a second squadron of the Rafale jets. The new squadron will be based in Hasimara air base in West Bengal.

Located in the crucial Siliguri corridor, the Hasimara airbase will cover both central and eastern Tibet. The Rafale will augment and add a bigger punch along with the IAF’s Su-30 MKIs which are already based in the Brahmaputra valley.

A senior IAF official said that with the induction of the 6 fighters will complete the Golden Arrows squadron – it currently has 14 fighters against standard squadron strength of 18 – and enable the air force to induct 2 remaining planes from this batch in the second Rafale squadron to be raised at the Hasimara airbase in Bengal’s Siliguri corridor.

Earlier, the 4th batch of three IAF Rafales landed on Indian soil after a direct ferry from Istres Air Base France, informed the Indian Air Force on 31 March.

The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on 29 July, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of ₹59,000 crore.

The formal induction ceremony of the fleet had taken place at Ambala on 10 September last.

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