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Iran missile scare 'very close' to where India's 5 Rafale halted, sparked late-night alarm


As India awaits the arrival of the first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft, a mid-transit scare occurred on the eve of the final leg of their journey. Three missiles part of an Iranian exercise landed near Al Dhafra airbase in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that houses US and French troops and aircraft. This sounded off an alarm for India as the first batch of India's five Rafale fighter due to arrive at Ambala on Wednesday had landed at the Al Dhafra base as a part of overnight halt.

The landing of Iranian missiles is said to have been "very close" to where the Rafales were parked. Perceiving danger, India's Air HQ wanted the Rafales to be flown out at night itself but due to requirements of NOTAM, it could not be arranged. Sources said that the Indian embassy got active to make sure that the fighter aircraft were safe and a team rushed to Al Dhafra base. It was confirmed by by 11 pm (local time) that all Rafales are safe and could fly out in the morning.

Iran's military exercise

Iran is holding military exercise - "Prophet Mohammed 14th" near the Strait of Hormuz and has reportedly destroyed a mock-up of a US aircraft carrier with missiles. Amid the heightened tensions between United States and Iran after the killing of Iran's top general Qasem Soleimani by US in January, the military exercise comes as yet another attempt by Iran to posture aggressively before America, which has under Donald Trump imposed several sanctions on the country and scrapped the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal. US Navy described the current Iran military exercise as 'irresponsible and reckless' while Iran released footage of the war games, missile launches from a helicopter, cannons being fired and more.

Rafale to arrive on Wednesday

The first batch of five Rafale fighter aircraft took off from France for India on Monday, nearly four years after the two countries inked an inter-governmental agreement to supply 36 of the multi-role jets to the Indian Air Force (IAF) under a Rs 59,000-crore deal.

The aircraft flew out from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux and are covering a distance of nearly 7,000 km with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop in the United Arab Emirates before their planned arrival at Ambala Air Base on Wednesday at 1 pm. If the weather conditions are unfavourable, they will instead go to Jodhpur airbase which has also been prepped for their arrival. IAF chief RKS Bhadauria will be on hand to receive them. The sophisticated aircraft are expected to significantly boost the Indian Air Force's combat capabilities at a time India is locked in a tense border row with China in eastern Ladakh. 

Earlier, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had received the first Rafale during his visit to the Dassault Aviation facility in Mérignac, France on October 8, 2019. However, the arrival of the aircraft after being refitted with India-specific enhancements was postponed by two months in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the India-specific modifications in the aircraft include radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems.