Rajnath Singh Receives 1st Rafale Jet, Calls It ‘Historic Day’

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday, 8 October, officially received the first Rafale fighter jet acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the Dassault assembly line facility in Merignac, a suburb of the south-western French town of Bordeaux.

Singh also took a sortie in the Rafale aircraft, flown by Philippe Duchateau, head test pilot of Dassualt Aviation, according to ANI.

Earlier, Singh performed a traditional 'Shastra Puja', or weapons' worship which forms part of Dussehra celebrations.

Addressing the handover ceremony, Singh said the event is “indeed is a historic and landmark day for the Indian Armed Forces,” adding that the ceremony signifies the depth of the strategic partnership between India and France.

Further, Singh said, “Rafale will boost India's air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region.”

CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier said it was a great day for Indian Air Force and Dassault Aviation. “We did what was in the contract and now it is ready to fly. We are very proud,” Trappier added.

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Earlier in the day, Singh discussed stronger India-France defence and strategic ties at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

During the meeting at Elysee Palace, the official base of the French president, Singh welcomed France as an “important strategic partner” of India.

“Delighted to be in France. This great nation is India's important strategic partner and our special relationship goes far beyond the realm of formal ties. My visit to France is aimed at expanding the existing strategic partnership between both the countries,” Singh had tweeted after his arrival in Paris on Monday, 7 October.

Macron also vowed “unrelenting fight” against Islamist terror, according to AFP news agency.

The ceremony coincides with the foundation day of the IAF as well as the day when Dussehra will be celebrated.

Members of the top military brass of France as well as senior officials of Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, are present at the ceremony.

First Batch of Rafale Jets to Fly to India by May 2020

India had 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, for which the IAF has been reportedly undertaking preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots.

The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The manufacturers describe it as a fully versatile aircraft which can carry out all combat aviation missions to achieve air superiority and air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.

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The Rafale entered service with the French Navy in 2004. 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 first Rafale jet will come with tail number RB 001, with RB denoting the initials of Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria who played a key role in striking the deal for the jets in his previous role as IAF deputy chief.

The handover ceremony will be followed by the annual Indo-French Defence Dialogue between Singh and French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly back in Paris on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, the minister is scheduled to address CEOs representing leading French defence industry enterprises. As part of a wider 'Make in India' message, Singh will invite them to participate in the DefExpo to be held in Lucknow from 5-8 February in 2020.

(With inputs from PTI, ANI)

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