NEW DELHI: A second batch of three Rafale fighter jets arrived at Jamnagar airbase in Gujarat on Wednesday evening after flying non-stop from France, in a further boost to the strike capability of the Indian Air Force when India and China are locked in a bitter border row in eastern Ladakh.
The IAF said the three aircraft got airborne from Istres airbase in France and flew for over eight hours covering over 3,700 nautical miles before landing in India.
With the arrival of the new batch, the number of Rafale aircraft has increased to eight.
The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.
"Second batch of IAF #Rafale aircraft arrived in India at 8:14 pm on 04 Nov 20 after flying non-stop from France," the IAF said in a tweet.
Officials said the new batch comprised three jets.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's office said he congratulated the IAF for successfully accomplishing a "highly complex mission" in a professional and safe manner.
"The second batch of three Rafale aircraft got airborne from Istres airbase in France and flew for over eight hours before landing at an IAF base. They covered a distance of over 3700 nautical miles with three in-flight refuellings," the IAF said in another tweet.
The Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.
The newly inducted fleet of five Rafale jets has been carrying out sorties in eastern Ladakh.
The IAF has deployed almost all its frontline fighter jets like Sukhoi 30 MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 aircraft in the key frontier air bases in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the LAC.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria on October 5 said that the induction of all 36 Rafale jets will be completed by 2023.
The Rafale jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons.
European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Scalp cruise missile and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.
The IAF is also procuring a new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets.
Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defence major Safran.
The missile was originally designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy.
Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat.
The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.
The first squadron of the Rafale jets is stationed at Ambala airbase while the second one will be based at Hasimara in West Bengal.