The first batch of new combat-proven fighter aircraft in two decades with the arrival of five Rafale jets which landed at the Ambala Air Force base at around 3:10 PM after covering a distance of 7,000 km from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux.
Each jet was given a special water cannon salute at the strategically-located air base in the presence of top brass of the Indian Air Force including Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria who had played a key role as lead negotiator in procurement of the jets.
The pilots include Group Captain Harkirat Singh who is the Commanding Officer of the 17 squadron, Wing Commander MS Singh, Group captain R Kataria, Wing Commander Abhishek Tripathi, Wing Commander Siddhu and Wing Commander Arun.
The pilots are from different fleets and have flown lesser generation aircraft in previous stints and have trained on Rafales only for 35-40 hours before undertaking a 7,000 km sortie with just one stoppage, the sources said.
Wing Commander Manish Singh, who belongs to this village, piloted one of the aircraft.
Manish's father, Madan Singh, is a retired army jawan. “I have distributed sweets in the entire village because my son is a part of a history-making initiative. People are also bursting crackers and lighting diyas to celebrate the occasion,” he said.
His wife Urmila Singh said that she was glad that her son had done something to strengthen the country.
“We had been waiting for this moment since the past three days and were following every step through the media and social media. The entire nation is celebrating and so are we,” she said.
The family said that they had spoken to Manish minutes before the take-off from France.
Manish's sister Anjali said that her brother has already given her the Raksha Bandhan gift by bringing the Rafale.
The family said that Manish had got his education in the village till Class IV and then went to the Sainik School in Karnal where his father was posted. Manish joined the Air Force in 2002 and was posted in Gorakhpur in 2017-18.