The second batch of the Rafale jets is set to join the Indian Air Force on Thursday as the fleet has arrived in India. This time, the jets have covered the 7,000-odd km flying non-stop from France, the IAF posted after the three aircraft landed.

“Second batch of IAF Rafale aircraft arrived in India at 8:14 pm on 04 Nov 20 after flying non-stop from France,” IAF informed in a tweet.

“Welcome home ‘Golden Arrows’. Blue skies always,” the Indian Air Force tweeted with a photo of the Rafales in the “Arrow formation”.

The IAF had also tweeted an audio clip of the Rafale fleet’s exchange with a naval warship as they crossed the Indian Ocean.

The first fleet of Rafale combat jets was inducted into the ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron of the Indian Air Force.

The ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron, which operated from the Bhatinda air base, was disbanded in 2016 after the Indian Air Force started gradual phasing out of Russian-origin MIG-21 jets. It was formed in 1951 and initially flew the Havilland Vampire F Mk 52 fighters.

The squadron has been resurrected and will be the first unit to fly the multi-role Rafale fighter jets.

The first Rafale fighter was handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in October 2019 in a ceremony attended by the French Minister for Armed Forces Madame Florence Parly and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Delivery of ten aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five will stay back in France for training mission. The delivery of all 36 aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021.

Meanwhile, the Rafale would be a game changer in the current scenario when India is locked in multiple standoffs with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in its northern borders, while in the western borders, it is busy tackling the increasing cross-border firing and infiltration bids by Pakistan-based terror groups.

This will provide the IAF a much-needed muscle amid a depleting fighter strength.

The induction of all 36 jets will be completed by 2023, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria has said.