00:55 GMT19 May 2021
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): The much-anticipated first batch of five Rafale jets took off from France on Monday, beginning their 7,000 km journey to India. The three single-seater and two twin-seater fighter jets will touch down at the Ambala Airbase in Punjab, close to Ladakh and the Pakistani border, on Wednesday.

    India has imposed prohibitive orders with immediate effect, disallowing gatherings of more than four people and banning drone activity within a 3 km radius of the Ambala Air Force Station on Tuesday until further notice.

    The security has been tightened a day ahead of the expected arrival of five Rafale fighter jets from France on Wednesday.

    “The Ambala Cantt area is a 'no-drone area' as it is a sensitive zone. Also, no photography allowed in the area. If anyone violates these orders, action will be taken against them”, Ram Kumar, top police official in Ambala Cantonment, stated.

    The official Twitter handle of the Indian Air Force has shared pictures of the arriving jets refuelling mid-air from a French Air Force tanker. The refuelling was done before their scheduled stopover at the Al-Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates.

    The fighter jets built by Dassault Aviation are accompanied by two A330 Phoenix MRTT refuelling planes from the French Air Force.

    India purchased 36 Rafale fighter jets from France under a government-to-government deal in 2016 at a cost of $8.7 billion. The delivery officially began in October, but the planes remained in France in order to train the pilots and mechanics. The delivery is expected to be completed by the first half of 2021. 

    Dassault has made India-specific changes to the aircraft and mounted different types of missiles: beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air Meteor, short and medium-range air-to-air MICA, and precision-guided air-to-ground SCALP missiles.


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