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Rajnath Singh receives first Rafale in France; delivery in May 2020

After the handing over, the Defence Minister performed shastra puja on the aircraft, and also flew a sortie on it.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh formally received the first Rafale fighter jet built for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in France on Tuesday. However, the first batch of jets will arrive in India only in May 2020.

“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,” Mr. Singh said, speaking at the handover ceremony. He was handed over the first Indian aircraft, RB-001, by Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier.

After the handing over, Mr. Singh performed shastra puja on the aircraft on the occasion of Vijayadashami and also flew a sortie on it. Later, Mr. Singh held the Annual Defence dialogue with his French counterpart Florence Parly, the Defence Ministry said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performs “shashtra puja” on a Rafale jet fighter during an handover ceremony at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France on October 8, 2019. France has delivered to India its first Rafale jet from a series of 36 aircraft purchased in a multi-billion dollar deal.  

Speaking to media after the sortie, Mr. Singh said India is procuring the Rafales for self-defence and as a deterrent. “By February 2021 we will receive 18 Rafales and by April 2022 we will get all the 36 Rafales,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Singh called on French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace. The two leaders “comprehensively discussed key aspects of bilateral defence partnership and resolved to continue strengthening the ties between the two countries,” a statement from the Defence Ministry said.

Lemons are placed under the wheels of the Rafale jet for which Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performed a shashtra puja during a handover ceremony at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, near Bordeaux, southwestern France on October 8, 2019. Photo: ANI  

“I thanked President Macron for his strong support to further intensifying our strategic partnership, especially in the defence sector, with India and for our ‘Make in India’ initiatives,” Mr. Rajnath Singh said after the meeting.

Mr. Singh later flew with Ms. Parly to Merignac, where Dassault Aviation’s Rafale final assembly facility is located, for the handing over ceremony.

Invite to defence sector

On October 9, Mr. Singh is scheduled to address Chief Executive Officers (CEO) of the French Defence industry and is likely to urge them to participate in “Make in India” and the DefExpo to be held in Lucknow from February 5-8, 2020, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Till May 2020, three batches of IAF pilots along with engineers and technicians will undergo advanced training on the Indian jets in France. So far three IAF pilots and two technical officers have trained on French Air Force Rafales as per the terms of the contract.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with his French counterpart Florence Parly at the Dassault Aviation plant in Merignac, France, on Tuesday, October 8, 2019.   

In September 2016, India and France signed a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition following the surprise announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015 citing “critical operational necessity” of the IAF. As per IGA, deliveries begin 36 months from signing of contract and will be completed in 67 months.

The RB in the aircraft designation stands for IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria who as then Deputy Chief of IAF led the Indian negotiation team and had a major role in the contract negotiations. In fact, the first Rafale built was RB-008 and it is on this aircraft that the 13 India Specific Enhancements (ISE) will be incorporated, tested and certified before they are incorporated on the remaining jets which will be done after all jets arrive in India.

The IAF recently resurrected the 17 Squadron ‘Golden arrows’ at Air Force station Ambala which will operate the first squadron of Rafale fighter jets once they arrive in India. The second Rafale squadron would be based at the Hasimara base in West Bengal.

The deal has a 50% offset clause as part of which French companies in the deal are setting up facilities in India and tying up with local companies to execute the obligations. Dassault Reliance JV (DRAL) production facility in Nagpur has started functioning while Thales already has presence in Nagpur. Engine maker Safran is set to inaugurate its facility in Hyderabad.

Source : The Hindu

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