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Rajnath Singh Takes Official Handover Of First Rafale In France

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 08, Oct 2019, 22:46 pm IST | UPDATED: 08, Oct 2019, 22:48 pm IST

Rajnath Singh Takes Official Handover Of First Rafale In France Delhi: Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday landed at the at Merignac Airport in the southwestern French town of Bordeaux on Tuesday for the handover ceremony of the first Rafale combat jet acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF). Singh took delivery of the first of the 36 Rafale jets acquired from Dassault Aviation for IAF and also preformed a Shastra puja on the aircraft and took a sortie in the fighter jet. The Defence Minister is on a three-day visit to France. While taking the handover, Singh said that his visit was aimed at "expanding the strategic partnership" between India and France.

Singh also took a tour of Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation's plant before the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first Rafale combat jet. According to reports, arrangements were made for a traditional Shashtra Puja that forms part of Dussehra celebrations and this year also marks Air Force Day - IAF's 87th anniversary.
"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," Singh said after taking handover of the fighter jet. 

Rajnath Singh was shown a short audio-visual clip on the history of aircraft manufacturing by Dassault before the handing over ceremony. His French counterpart Florence Parly was also present during the handover ceremony.

"Former (French) President Jacques Chirac had laid the basic groundwork for strategic partnership between India and France along with Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee. We are thankful to them. Today is a milestone day for Indio-France strategic partnership and a new high in bilateral defence co-operation," the minister said.

India has entered into an inter-governmental agreement with France and Dassault, the French aviation major, to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets in flyaway condition at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. Before the ceremony, Singh also met the French Minister for the Armed forces Florence Parly and the French President's Defence Advisor Admiral Bernard Rogel.

The minister will fly a sortie in the Rafale jet post the handover ceremony and will conclude the event with the traditional breaking of a coconut before the new aircraft. "The Raksha Mantri will perform the Shastra Puja on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashami and fly a sortie in the Rafale fighter aircraft," the spokesperson said.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inspects a Rafale Jet at its Dassault Aviation assembly line, in Bordeaux, France. (Image: PTI)

The remaining 35 Rafale fighter jets are expected to arrive in India by September 2022, for which the IAF has been reportedly readying required infrastructure and training the pilots. Singh will fly a sortie on a twin-seater trainer version of the Rafale combat aircraft for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

"In the defence sector, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is our longest standing export customer and has been flying Dassault aircraft since 1953. The acquisition contract for 36 Rafale signed in 2016 and the modernisation of the Mirage 2000 I/TI are a continuation of this historic partnership," Dassault Aviation said in a statement.

Air Marshal Muthumanikam Matheswaran, while talking to IANS said: "Pakistan has multi role fighter jet F-16, which is equivalent to India's Mirage 2000. Pakistan will have no answer to this sophisticated Rafale."

The aircraft, which is capable of carrying an array of potent weapons and missiles, will be a force to reckon with in the Indian Air Force to which Pakistan has no answer, according to defence experts. After France, Egypt and Qatar, India will be the fourth country which can boast of the ultra modern fighter jet.

The first squadron of the Rafale aircraft will be stationed at the Ambala Air Force Station in Punjab, considered as a strategic air base given its proximity to the Indo-Pakistan border. Then IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa had resurrected this squadron - known as 17 Squadron or Golden Arrows - in September.

The second Rafale squadron will be based at the Hashimara Air Force Station in Alipurduar district of West Bengal which at present is home to the ageing MiG 27 Russian aircraft.