While ferrying between France and India, the first five Dassault Rafale fighter jets of the Indian Air Force (IAF) stopped over for the night in Al Dhafra Air Base, in the United Arab Emirates. During their halt, the base went under high alert as three Iranian missiles crashed into the waters nearby.
To cover the 7,000 kilometers (4,349 miles) journey between Merignac Air Base, in southwestern France, and the Ambala Air Force Station, near Kashmir and the Pakistan border, within two days, the French Air Force provided air refueling support. Two Airbus A330 Phénix Multi-Role Transport Tankers (MRTT) were assigned to this mission, with one carrying 70 respirators, 100,000 test kits, and a staff of 10 medical experts to help India deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
On July 28, 2020, the Rafales stopped for the night at Al Dhafra Air Base, in the United Arab Emirates, which houses a contingent of the U.S. Air Force and, since 2010, also serves as an operational base for the French Air Force.
Coincidentally, that night was the one the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) used to conduct exercises in the Strait of Hormuz. The drill, which took place around a mock aircraft carrier resembling the Nimitz-class carrier of the U.S. Navy, included a barrage of missiles.
According to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), three ballistic missiles came close enough for both the Al Dhafra Air Base and the Al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The visiting Indian pilots were asked to take cover. No damage or injuries were reported in the bases.
“The incident lasted for a matter of minutes and an all-clear was declared after the threat indicator had passed,” CENTCOM said in a statement.
On July 29, 2020, the five Rafale fighter jets took off for the last leg of their journey. They eventually reached the Ambala Air Force Station unharmed, where they were welcomed by a water salute.