Breaking: 5 Rafale jets land at Ambala air base; Proud moment for India
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Watch: 5 Rafale jets land at Ambala air base; Proud moment for India; Defence Minister tweets


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The five jets touched down at the airbase amid unprecedented security; the district administration also issued a dawn-to-dusk ban on photography of any assets at the air force station under Section 144 of the criminal procedure code.

Five Rafale jets, the first of the 36 contracted by India, landed at the Ambala air base on Wednesday afternoon. The fighter jet, to be inducted into the Indian Air Force’s ‘Golden Arrow’ squadron, is the first imported fighter jet to be inducted into the IAF in 23 years after the Russian Sukhoi-30 fighters. The first Su-30 entered IAF service in June 1997.

The five jets touched down at the airbase amid unprecedented security; the district administration also issued a dawn-to-dusk ban on photography of any assets at the air force station under Section 144 of the criminal procedure code.

IAF chief RKS Bhaduria was at the airbase to receive the Rafales and the team of pilots led by Group Captain Harkirat Singh, the commanding officer of the No 17 Squadron, also known as the “Golden Arrows”.


Merignac: The crew of the first batch of Rafale aircraft preparing to take off from Dassault Aviation Facility, Merignac, in France, Monday, July 27, 2020.

The first Rafale’s tail number, RB-001, denotes the initials of the IAF chief Rakesh Bhadauria who had led the complex negotiations for the Rafale deal.

Former air chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, who had been one of the most vocal supporters of the 2016 deal to buy the fighter jets, called the induction of the Rafale into the air force a ‘game changer’. The retired IAF chief told Hindustan Times moments before the five jets landed at Ambala that the Rafale would decide the outcome of any conflict between India and China.

The jets, specially tailored for the IAF, started their 7,000 km flight home from Mérignac in France on Monday. The Rafale jets were refueled mid-air by the French air force before it landed at the Al Dhafra air base near Abu Dhabi, a brief stopover before taking off for Ambala early on Wednesday.

As it cruised over the Indian Ocean, it was warmly welcomed by the Navy’s warship INS Kolkata deployed in the Arabian Sea. “May you touch the sky with glory. Happy landing,” INS Kolkata said in a brief interaction released to news agency INS.

India’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI joined them soon after when the five Rafales entered Indian airspace, escorting them through to Ambala. “The Birds have entered the Indian airspace,” tweeted Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with photographs and a short video of the seven fighter jets – 5 Rafales escorted by 2 Su-30MKI jets – flying in formation.