IAF Chief in France: Flags off new batch of Rafale jets for India

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New Delhi, Apr 21 (PTI) Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on Wednesday flagged off a new batch of Rafale fighter jets from a French airbase to India.

The 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 non stop 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).

'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.

The first Rafale squadron is based in Ambala air force station. A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.

Dassault Aviation has delivered 14 jets to the Indian Air Force so far.

The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29 last.

On Tuesday, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria held talks with Gen Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of French Air and Space Force (FASF), on ways to further expand cooperation between the two sides.

Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria is on a five-day visit to France from Monday. PTI MPB PYK PYK