The first batch of five Rafale fighter jets took off from France today for induction into the IAF on Wednesday to give a major boost to the country’s defence preparedness amid the ongoing military stand-off with China.

Considered among the world’s best, the jets, built by French aviation firm Dassault, took off from the Merignac Airbase in southern France’s Bordeaux. They will reach the Ambala Airbase on Wednesday for induction after covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km from France to India with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop at a French airbase in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The five aircraft are the first tranche of the 36 planes bought by India from France in a Rs 59,000-crore inter-governmental deal in 2016.

Twelve IAF pilots and engineering crew members are fully trained on the Rafale fighter jets.

The Indian Embassy in Paris posted a series of pictures of the jets taking off from France on its twitter handle. “Beauty and the Beast”- Rafale Fighter Aircraft. Ready to take off!” one of the tweets said.

Indian Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf visited the Rafale assembly line and interacted with French officials and Indian pilots before they took off from France. He wished them a safe flight to India with a single hop.

The delivery of ten aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five will stay back in France for the training mission. The delivery of all36 aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021, the embassy said in a statement.

The Rafale fighter jets are capable of carrying a range of highly effective weapons, including the Meteor air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile.

The Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.

The IAF has readied the required infrastructure to welcome the jets in its line-up.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, last month, held a telephonic conversation with his French counterpart Florence Parly, who assured the delivery of the first batch of plane would take place as scheduled despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Last October, the defence minister had gone to France to take part in the handover event at a facility of Dassault Aviation in the Merignac area of Bordeaux, around 590 km from Paris. Singh had taken a 20-minute sortie in the aircraft after performing a pooja.