IAF receives its first Rafale fighter jet from France

Updated: Oct 09, 2019, 14:07 IST | Agencies | Merignac

Defence minister Rajnath Singh was at the handover ceremony in Merignac

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with French Defence Minister Florence Parly at the Dassault Aviation plant. Pics/PTI
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with French Defence Minister Florence Parly at the Dassault Aviation plant. Pics/PTI

Merignac: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday formally received the Indian Air Force's first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 such aircraft purchased from France. Singh attended the handover ceremony along with his French counterpart Florence Parly at aircraft maker Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac, southwestern France.

He performed a brief Shastra Puja on the new aircraft as he emblazoned it with an Om tilak and offered flowers and a coconut, just before he was to take off in it for a sortie. Describing the sortie as a memorable and once in a lifetime experience, 68-year-old Singh said, "I had never imagined that I would be flown at supersonic speed; a very comfortable and smooth flight during which I was able to observe the many capabilities of the jet, its air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities". He was joined by senior representatives of the Indian Armed Forces to mark the induction ceremony.

IAF receives its first Rafale fighter jet from France

"Our Air Force is the fourth-largest in the world and I believe that the Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft will make us even stronger and will give a boost to India's air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region," Singh said, addressing the gathering in Hindi. "I have been told that the French word Rafale means andhi in Hindi or gust of wind. I am sure that the aircraft will live up to its name," he said.

The RB001 Rafale, 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, was unveiled just moments before behind him, with the Indian tricolour as its backdrop. "This is a historic and landmark day for the Indian Armed forces, which reflects the depth of strategic partnership between India and France. Today marks Vijayadashami 'the victory of good over evil' as also the 87th Indian Air Force Day. And therefore a symbolic day in so many ways," he added.

While the formal handover ceremony takes place this week, 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.

Rs 59K cr
The sum at which 36 Rafale jets have been purchased

IAF chief on Balakot

The Balakot air strikes reflect a major shift in the government's way of handling terror attacks, IAF chief R K S Bhadauria said on Tuesday. "The strategic relevance of this (Balakot strike) is the resolve of the political leadership to punish the perpetrators of terrorism and the capability of the IAF to execute a strike inside Pakistan. This has been a major shift in the government's way of handling terrorists attacks," he said on the 87th anniversary of the IAF.

Squadrons awarded

On the 87th IAF Day, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria awarded citations to 51 Squadron, the 9 Squadron and the 601 Signal Unit for their role in the airstrike on terror camps in Pakistan's Balakot in February. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and other fighter pilots who were part of the Balakot operation, participated in the flypast.

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