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India formally gets the first Rafale fighter jet

The first India specific Rafale multi-role combat aircraft was symbolically handed over to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at a ceremony in Bordeaux, France. 36 such combat jets have been acquired by the Indian Air Force which will be delivered by September 2022. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also called on French President Emmanuel Macron and held strategic delegation level discussions with France’s Armed Forces minister Florence Parly.

And the moment that all of India has been waiting for arrived. A moment the Indian Air force will cherish for long at Merignac, a suburb of the south-western French town of Bordeaux appropriately on Air Force Day, the IAF’s 87th Anniversary.

And in keeping with India’s rich cultural heritage and appropriately on Vijaydashmi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performed the traditional Shastra Puja, or weapons’ worship intrinsically part of Dussehra celebrations. He had earlier taken a tour of Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation’s facility at Merignac. Members of the top military brass of France and senior officials of Dassault Aviation were present.

Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft that operates from both an aircraft carrier and airbase. Dassault describes it as a fully versatile aircraft for all combat aviation missions. It delivers air superiority and air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.

India had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016. 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. The IAF has been readying infrastructure and training pilots.

Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met French President Emmanuel Macron and discussed stronger India-France defence and strategic ties at the Elysee Palace. The talks are part of a comprehensive defence dialogue between the two countries. Rajnath Singh also held delegation level discussions with France’s Armed Forces minister Florence Parly.

The Rafale entered service with the French Navy in 2004 and with the French Air Force in 2006. It is said to have proven its worth in combat in war zones such as Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria. The Rafale jets for India will have IAF specific modifications and will enhanceme India’s Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft fleet. The first Rafale jet will bear tail number RB 001. RB being the initials of Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria who played a key role in striking the deal in his previous role as IAF deputy chief. It is clear from the Rafale jets that India’s “special partnership” with France goes far beyond formal ties.

Earlier, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was accorded guard of honour in Paris as he received first Rafale. On Wednesday, he will take part in defence related summit.

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