GR News Desk | New Delhi
India on Tuesday received the first batch of Rafale fighter aircraft to be inducted in the Indian Air Force in the coming months. The formal handover was done by Dassault Aviation to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at its manufacturing facility in Bordeaux, Paris.
Rajnath, who is on a three-day visit to France, earlier held discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of flying to the facility. Following the handover, the Defence Minister performed Shashtra Puja on the occasion of Dusshera which coincides with the 87th Air Force Day being celebrated in India.
The minister is scheduled to take a sortie in the Rafale jet, his second sortie in a span of 30 days. He earlier flew in the rare cockpit of indigenously built LCA Tejas.
During the handover ceremony, Rajnath said that this was a new milestone in India-French defence cooperation. “I hope that the strong cooperation between two important and large democracies will continue to grow and contribute to global peace, prosperity and environmental sustainability. I look forward to flying in the Rafale aircraft. This will be a great honour and experience for me. I thank Minister Parly for this gesture,” Rajnath said.
India has ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016. While the formal handover ceremony takes place this week, the first batch of four Rafale jets will fly to their home base in India by May 2020. All 36 jets are expected to arrive in India by September 2022. Preparations have been initiated to house the twin-jet fighter aircraft at India’s frontline airbase in Ambala. The Ambala airbase is strategically important as it is just over 200 kms away from Pakistan’s border. it currently is home to India’s Jaguar fighter bombers.
The Rafale jets intended for India are expected to come with certain bespoke modifications for the IAF and have been awaited as a crucial enhancement to India’s Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft fleet. The fourth-generation fighter aircraft is being inducted in a bid to phaseout the ageing Mig fleet to provide air superiority to the Air Force in the regional theatre.