India has been officially handed over first Rafale fighter Jet on Tuesday by France’s Dassault Aviation. Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh received the first of the 36 Rafale jets on the behalf of Indian Air Force at Dassault Aviation's plant in France’s Merignac. Speaking at the handover event Rajnath Singh said, “I am told that Rafale is a French word meaning gust of wind. I am sure the aircraft will live up to its name. I believe Rafale will boost India's air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region.”
“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”, Rajnath Singh added. Calling the day historic, Rajnath Singh said that it will deepen Indo-French ties.
Earlier today, Rajnath Singh met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. He is set to perform ‘Shastra Puja’ on the occasion of Dussehra and take a sortie in the fighter jet.
Four of the 36 Rafale jets which are part of Rs. 59,000-crore deal made in September 2016 are expected to arrive in India in May next year.
India has signed an agreement to purchase two squadrons (36) of the twin-engine multi-role aircraft, capable of delivering nuclear warheads, and decided to base one each on its western and eastern fronts with Pakistan and China.
The acquisition ceremony coincides with the foundation day of the Indian Air Force as well as the day when Dussehra will be celebrated. Arrangements have been made at the air base for a traditional ‘Shastra Puja’, or weapons’ worship which forms part of Dussehra celebrations. After performing puja, Singh will take a sortie in a two-seater trainer version of the aircraft.
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.
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.