5 French fighter jets head to India after controversial purchase
The first five of a batch of French Rafale fighter jets, purchased by New Delhi in a controversial multibillion-dollar deal, headed to India on Monday. They are expected to be rapidly deployed amid tensions with China.
The deal, estimated to be worth $9.4 billion, has been overshadowed by corruption allegations leveled by the opposition Congress party although Indian PM Narendra Modi has rejected the claims, AFP reported.
The jets, built by Dassault Aviation and piloted by officers from the Indian Air Force (IAF), took off from Merignac in southwest France, the company said in a statement.
By Wednesday, the jets should be at Ambala air base in northern India, some 200km (120 miles) from the Pakistani and Chinese borders. Delivery of the Rafale jets – 36 of which were ordered by India in September 2016 – officially began in October. However, the planes stayed in France for training of the pilots and mechanics.