Rajnath Singh receives first Rafale fighter, goes for a 30-min sortie
Paris, Oct 08: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was on Tuesday handed over the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets at Dassault's facility in Mérignac near Bordeaux, France. India and France have inked a deal in September 2016 for procurement of 36 jets at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore.
Singh took a sortie in the brand new Dassault made fighter aircraft. He was flown by Philippe Duchateau, head test pilot of Dassault Aviation. Singh sat in the rear cockpit while the French pilot flew the customised Rafale fighter jet with tail number RB-01.
This is not the first time that Singh is taking a sortie in a fighter aircraft. Last month, he took a sortie in LCA Tejas.
Singh attended the handover ceremony along with his French counterpart Florence Parly at aircraft maker Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac, southwestern France. The minister performed a brief Shastra Puja (a custom followed during Dussehra) on the new aircraft as he emblazoned it with an 'Om' tilak and laid flowers and a coconut
Though Singh received the first of the 36 Rafale jets today, the next batch of four aircrafts will come to India only by May next year. The Defence Minister arrived at Bordeux, France, today to attend the induction ceremony of Rafale.
"I am happy that the delivery of Rafale aircraft is on schedule, I am confident that this will add further strength to our Air Force. I wish cooperation between our two major democracies further increases in all sectors...Today marks a new milestone in India-France strategic partnership. I look forward to taking a sortie in the Rafale aircraft," Singh said at Mérignac.
"Our Air Force is the fourth-largest in the world and I believe that the Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft will make us even stronger and will give a boost to India's air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region," Singh further said.
The date was chosen for formally receiving the aircraft because today is Dussehra and also the Air Force Day in India.
"In India, today is the festival of Dussehra also known as Vijayadashmi where we celebrate victory over evil. It is also the 87th Air Force Day, therefore the day becomes symbolic in so many ways," he added.
The minister was accompanied by Armed Forces personnel including Air Marshall Harjit Singh Arora. Representatives of the top military brass from the French side were also present on the occasion.
The Dassault made fighter is likely to be inducted into the IAF's 'Golden Arrows' 17 Squadron which was was disbanded in 2016.
Singh's French counterpart Florence Parly described the Rafale as a symbol of the best France has to offer India to protect its sovereignty and also of the French commitment to the 'Make in India' initiative.
"It is no coincidence that this ceremony falls on Dussehra and also the Indian Air Force's 87th anniversary. It is a reflection of the paramount importance we give to our cooperation with India," said Parly.
"This is just the first step of a long journey, as we are committed to meet all needs of the Indian Army. It marks a big day in the history of our industrial cooperation and we remain fully committed to the Make in India initiative," she said.
This range of Rafale fighter jets have been specially designed to meet the needs of the IAF, which its manufacturer described as a new step in the company's long-standing relationship with India.
"The history of our relationship started in 1953 with delivery of Toofani for the Indian Air Force and since then we have had a continuous and unfailing commitment to this country, supported by successive French governments," said Eric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation.
"These aircraft, which are on course to be delivered on scheduled as per the agreement signed in September 2016, have been created to meet the highly demanding needs of the Indian Air Force, which operates in a very sensitive geopolitical environment," he said.
Earlier today, Singh met French President Emmanuel Macron. After his talks with Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Singh flew to Merignac, a suburb of the south-western French town of Bordeaux, where he will participate in the official handover ceremony for the first Rafale combat jet acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
India and France had inked a deal in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 jets at a cost of Rs 58,000 crore. The Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.
Why India badly needed Rafale fighters?
Rafale is technologically more advanced than any fighters that IAF has. Rafale is a 4.5 generation aircraft while the Mirage 2000 and the Su-30 MkI which IAF uses are third or fourth-generation fighters. LCA Tejas is considered as a fourth-generation in terms of avionics and technology but it is too small an aircraft to make a difference.
With barely 32 squadrons of fighter aircraft currently in inventory, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is staring at a massive problem. The IAF should ideally have a strength of 42 combat squadrons to be fully prepared for a two-front war.
India will only be the fourth country, after France, Egypt and Qatar, to fly the Rafale. Though Singh will receive the first of the 36 Rafale jets today, the first batch of four aircraft will come to India only by May next year.