Five Rafale fighter jets of the 36 ordered by the Indian Air Force (IAF) from France will land at their home base in Ambala on Wednesday afternoon, an IAF official said.
The fighter jets took off from Mérignac in France on Monday and had a one-day stopover at the Al Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi. The two-leg flight will see the Rafales covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km. IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria is expected to be in Ambala to receive the Rafales and the pilots flying them home.
The jets are being flown by Indian pilots who have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft. The Rafales will be a part of the IAF's No. 17 Squadron, which is also known as the "Golden Arrows". The aircrew bringing the Rafales to India is headed by Group Captain Harkirat Singh, a decorated fighter pilot, who is the commanding officer of the No. 17 Squadron.
While the French air force refuelled the fighters — three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft — using its Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft on their way to Al Dhafra, aerial refuelling support will be provided by the IAF's Russian Ilyushin-78 refuellers for the second leg of the journey from Al Dhafra to Ambala.