While the formal handover ceremony took place on October 8, the first batch of four Rafale jets will fly to their home base in India by May 2020
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on October 8 officially received the first Rafale combat jet acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The handover ceremony happened at the Merignac Airport in the south-western French town of Bordeaux.
Speaking at the handover ceremony, Singh said that Rafale aircraft would add to the strength of the IAF. He also expressed confidence that France will meet the delivery timelines for all 36 aircraft.
Singh undertook a tour of Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation's plant before receiving the aircraft. The Defence Minister is also scheduled to perform a ‘Shastra Puja’ and fly a sortie in the Rafale jet after the puja. The puja will conclude with the traditional breaking of a coconut before the new aircraft.
In September 2016, India ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore. While the formal handover ceremony took place on October 8, 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 that 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.
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's tail number is 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.
Singh, who earlier held wide-ranging talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, had said his visit was aimed at "expanding the strategic partnership" between India and France.
Earlier in the day, Singh greeted the Indian Air Force on its 87th anniversary.
"Greetings to all IAF personnel and their families on the 87th IAF Day," Singh said in a tweet.
"The IAF is the shining example of exemplary courage, fortitude, determination and impeccable service to our nation. These men and women in Blue have the ability to touch the sky with grit and glory," he said.
“In India, today is the festival of Dussehra also known as Vijayadashmi where we celebrate victory over evil. It is also the 87th [Indian] Air Force Day. Therefore, the day becomes symbolic in so many ways,” Singh added.(With inputs from PTI)The Great Diwali Discount!
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