All the five Rafale aircraft landed safely at the Al Dhafra airbase in UAE on Monday after a sortie in excess of seven hours, the Indian Air Force said.

In a long-awaited development, five Rafale fighter aircraft took off on Monday for India from an airbase in France to join the Indian Air Force fleet in Ambala on Wednesday.

The fighter aircraft were flagged off by the Indian Ambassador to France from an airbase in Merignac in France where he interacted with the India crew flying it to India. The five aircraft flying to India include seven Indian pilots including the commanding officer of the 17 Golden Arrows squadron.

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All the pilots 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.

The aircraft would make their first stopover at a French base in the United Arab Emirates on their way to India and would be refuelled by the French Air Force tanker aircraft somewhere around Greece or Israel over the sea before landing there.

After a stopover, these will then proceed towards Ambala 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.

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