Published On : Wed, Oct 9th, 2019

Rajnath receives IAF’s 1st Rafale jet from France


The Indian Air Force will be ready to fully operationalise one squadron of the Rafale fighter jets in the western sector dealing with threats from Pakistan by February 2021, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told India Today TV.

Sources was at ground zero in Merignac, France close to the town of Bourdeaux where the ceremony to hand over the first Rafale to the Indian Air Force took place.

The Rafale will enhance the strike capabilities of the Indian Air Force.

While the first squadron of Rafale jets will be operational from Ambala in the western sector, the other one will come up in Hashimara in West Bengal to combat the Chinese threat.

The fighter jet is armed with potent meteor and scalp missiles that will enhance air strike capabilities and air dominance of the Indian Air Force.

The meteor is a beyond visual range air-to-air missile and scalp is a long-range cruise missile that can be launched from the aircraft for deep strikes to hit fixed and stationary targets.

“Rafale in Hindi means Aandhi, Gust of winds. I am sure it will live up to its name,” Rajnath Singh said addressing the gathering.

There are still many India specific enhancements that are being carried out and Indian Air Force personnel are training with the French on several aspects like operations and maintenance.

In a government-to-government agreement in 2016, India decided to buy 36 Rafales from France at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. This triggered a political storm with the opposition accusing the government of striking the deal at an inflated price.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh while speaking about the enhanced capabilities of the Air Force with the induction of Rafale gave the credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “decisiveness” to ensure at least 36 Rafale, which means two squadrons come in as an emergency procurement.

The induction of Rafale comes at a time when the IAF is making sweeping changes to its ageing fleet replacing the old aircraft with upgraded versions and also giving a push to the indigenous Tejas to quickly fill in for the falling squadron strength which is down to 30 from the sanctioned number of 42. Each squadron comprises 18 fighter jets.

The first batch of four Rafales will be in Indian skies by May 2020.

In addition, the Indian Air Force is also looking at purchasing 114 medium multi-role combat aircraft and once again Rafale is one of the contenders.

Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held meetings with his counterpart Florence Pary and French President Emmanuel Macron.

After the formal handing over ceremony, the Raksha Mantri carried out the ritual of Shastra Puja that is a traditional ceremony in many households in North India on the festival of Dussehra. This is a day celebrated as the victory of good over evil and what better Shastra (weapon) than the Rafale can we have on this day for the puja, he said.

After the ceremony, the defence minister was quick to transform into a different avatar. Getting into Air Force overalls, also referred to as the G Suit, and aviators, leaving his traditional dhoti-kurta behind.

He flew a sortie in the Rafale, now a property of the Indian Air Force. Phillipe Duchateau, chief test pilot of Dassault Aviation, the company manufacturing Rafale, flew the defence minister for close to 30 minutes over the scenic town of Bourduex also carrying out a few manoeuvres.

During the induction ceremony, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said that cultural links and friendship between the two countries go far beyond strategic links.

“This is now embodied with Rafale and that’s the best that France can offer India. More than any other country France is committed to the Make in India initiative. Nearly 60 French defence companies are settled in India and this number keeps growing,” she said.

Later in the evening, there was a defence minister-level meeting in Paris aimed at enhancing strategic cooperation between the countries.

The Indian delegation included Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Air Force Vice Chief HS Arora, Navy Vice Chief Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar and Lt Gen Rajiv Sabharwal from the Indian Army among other senior officials.

Soon after the induction, the IAF delegation present at the ceremony got into a huddle chanting the celebratory “three cheers for the Indian Air Force” welcoming the new member of the Indian defence establishment.