The Indian ambassador to France, Jawed Ashraf, on Monday thanked the French government and Dassault Aviation for the timely delivery of the five Rafale fighter jets which took off for India from Merignac air base facility in southwestern France a while ago.
Flagging off the fighter aircraft, the Indian ambassador, said, "Our Air Force pilots tell us that these are extremely swift, nimble, versatile and very deadly aircraft. You might call them both 'Beauty and Beast'. They are superb flying machines being flown by the best pilots in the world. We would like to thank Dassault for delivering the aircraft on time. We would also like to thank the French government and the France Air Force for all the support they have provided."
"This is going to add a great deal of strength to our air power and defence preparedness. But this is also a symbol of the powerful strategic partnership between India and France," he added.
The ambassador also interacted with the India crew flying the aircraft back to India.
The seven Indian pilots, including the commanding officer of the 17 Golden Arrows squadron, have been trained on the aircraft by the French Dassault Aviation company as per the agreement signed for the biggest ever defence deal signed by India in 2016 for acquiring 36 Rafale jets for over Rs 60,000 crore.
"It is going to be long flight. It is a remarkable symbol of their professionalism, endurance and the skills that they have acquired during the training that they will be able to do this with mid-air refueling with just a single stop to India. We have bid them a smooth flight on the way and safe landing in India," the ambassador said.
The aircraft would make their first stopover at a French base in United Arab Emirates on their way to India and would be refuelled by French Air Force tanker aircraft somewhere around Greece or Israel over sea before landing there.
After a stopover, they will then proceed towards Ambala from there and reach by July 29 morning.
The delivery of the aircraft was earlier supposed to have been done by May end but this was postponed by two months in view of the COVID-19 situation in both India and France.
The trainers will have the tail numbers of the RB series in honour of the Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria who played a pivotal role in finalising India's largest-ever defence deal for 36 Rafale combat aircraft.
To be made fully operational within days of landing here and able to undertake any type of operation, the Rafale is being fitted with the HAMMER missiles which can hit targets in range of 60-70 kms.
( With inputs from ANI )