‘Shots from 30,000 feet’: Pics show Rafales re-fuelling mid-air on way home

The first batch of five Rafale fighter jets, on their way to India, were seen being re-fuelled mid-air from a French Air Force tanker, and the pictures taken at 30,000 feet were posted on Twitter by the Indian embassy in France.

“Indian Air Force appreciates the support provided by French Air Force for our Rafale journey back home,” tweeted Indian Air Force.

These five jets include 3 single-seater and 2 twin-seater aircraft.

The two-leg flight involves the Rafales covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km. The five fighters landed safely at Al Dhafra after a seven-hour flight from France on Monday evening.

The French air force refuelled the Indian fighters 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.

The jets are being flown by pilots who have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, the IAF said. The Rafales will be a part of the IAF’s No. 17 Squadron, which is also known as the ‘Golden Arrows.’

India has taken a significant step in “strengthening its air power and defence preparedness” with the first five Rafale fighter jets, built by French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation, flying out from the Merignac airbase in Bordeaux, the Indian embassy in France said in a statement.

“Real beauty and beast!” Indian ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf said while the planes were being flagged off in Bordeaux. “First five Rafale to India – swift, nimble, versatile, advanced and lethal,” he added.

“This also marks a new milestone in the strong and growing India-France defence cooperation,” the Indian Embassy said in a statement.

The new fighters — the first imported jets to be inducted into the IAF in 23 years after the Russian Sukhoi-30 jets entered service in June 1997 — will significantly enhance the offensive capabilities of IAF, which has for long planned to update its fighter jet force.

Acting on a special request by the IAF, France has accelerated the deliveries of Rafale fighters to India.

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

France handed over to India its first Rafale fighter during a ceremony attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in Merignac on October 8 last year. Air and ground crews of the IAF have been in France for almost three years for the management of the Rafale programme.

India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016 as an emergency purchase to plug gaps in the IAF’s capabilities. The delivery of 36 fighters will be completed by the end of next year.

Source: Hindustan Times

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