Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on ‘Mig-29K’ during his day at Sea on INS Vikramaditya. (Photo Credit: Photo: Twitter/@DefenceMinIndia)
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is scheduled to visit France to receive the first Rafale fighter aircraft on October 8 - The Air Force Day and Dussehra. According to the defence sources, Singh will also fly a sortie on a two-seater Rafale training aircraft during the visit. However, this program was not yet confirmed.
Earlier last month, the Indian Air Force (IAF) received its first 'acceptance' Rafale combat aircraft from Dassault Aviation in France. Rafale will officially be inducted into the Indian Air Force with Singh's visit but they would actually start arriving in India next year.
The first unit to receive the Rafale combat aircraft would be the 17 Squadron which was earlier located in Bhatinda in Punjab and will now be shifted to Ambala in Haryana. The "Golden Arrows" 17 Squadron was commanded by Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa during the Kargil war in 1999.
India has signed an agreement to purchase two squadrons (36) of the twin-engine multi-role aircraft, capable of delivering nuclear warheads. Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa had termed the introduction of the Rafale and the Russian S-400 missile defence system as "game-changer".
However, both the deals were surrounded by controversies. While it was alleged by the Opposition that Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally changed the Rafale deal to help his businessman friend Anil Ambani, the decision to purchase S-400 missile defence system from Russia was opposed by the US.