Chief of Air Staff RKS Bhadauria will receive the five Rafale fighter jets at Ambala on Wednesday afternoon when the fleet arrives at the strategically key airbase, officials said. The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in over two decades, and they are expected to significantly boost the Indian Air Force's combat capabilities.
India had inked a Rs 59,000-crore deal on September 23, 2016 to procure 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.
Six Rafale trainer aircraft will carry RB series tail numbers which stand for Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who played a key role as lead negotiator for the mega deal.
The first batch of five jets took off from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux on Monday, and will be arriving in Ambala on Wednesday afternoon after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km.
The fleet, comprising three single seater and two twin seater aircraft, will be inducted into the IAF as part of its No 17 Squadron, also known as the 'Golden Arrows' on Wednesday afternoon, they said.
However, a formal induction ceremony will be held around mid-August which is expected to be attended by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and top military brass of the country.
The fleet landed at Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE after flying for over seven hours. It was the only stopover by the jets while flying from France to India.
The jets were also refulled mid-air from a French tanker at a height of 30,000 feet, according to the Indian Embassy in France.
The first Rafale jet was handed over to the IAF in October last year during a visit to France by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
While the first squadron of the Rafale jets will be stationed at Ambala airbase, the second one will based at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
The Ambala base is considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF as the Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from it.
Currently, the base has two squadrons of the Jaguar combat aircraft and one squadron of the MiG-21 Bison.
Marshal of the IAF Arjan Singh was the first commander of the Ambala base in independent India.
The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop required infrastructure like shelters, hangars and maintenance facilities at the two bases
Out of 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin-seater and they will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.