The first batch of five Rafale fighter jets has landed at the Ambala airbase after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km to join the Indian Air Force fleet. The fleet, comprising three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft, will be part of the No. 17 Squadron of the Air Force, also known as the ”Golden Arrows’.
“The Birds have landed safely in Ambala. The touchdown of Rafale combat aircrafts in India marks the beginning of a new era in our Military History. These multirole aircrafts will revolutionise the capabilities of the @IAF_MCC,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in a series of tweets.
“Welcome home ‘Golden Arrows’. Blue skies always,” the Indian Air Force tweeted with a photo of the Rafales in “Arrow formation”, given a ceremonial welcome by SU-30s.
Rajnath Singh had earlier tweeted that the “birds” had entered the Indian airspace.
Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria is at the Ambala air base to receive the Rafale jets, India’s first major acquisition of western fighter planes in over two decades. A Rs 59,000-crore deal was signed on September 23, 2016 for 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.
Security has been tightened near the airbase, located around 200 km from the border with Pakistan, and large gatherings have been banned in four villages nearby. There are also restrictions on people gathering on rooftops and any filming or photography during the landing. A local MLA has urged people to light candles this evening to welcome the jets.