After receiving India’s first Rafale jet, Rajnath takes off for sortie
Soon after taking delivery of the combat aircraft, Singh flew in the two-seater Rafale jet accompanied by French pilot Philippe Duchateau in the front cockpit with Singh sitting in the rear seat.Updated: Jul 08, 2020 06:55 IST
Defence MinisterRajnath Singh on Tuesday formally received the first Rafale fighter jet from the series of 36 aircraft bought from France at Dassault Aviation’s Merignac air base near Bordeaux in the southwestern part of the country.
Soon after taking delivery of the combat aircraft, Singh flew in the two-seater Rafale jet accompanied by French pilot Philippe Duchateau in the front cockpit with Singh sitting in the rear seat.
The plane was flown by a French pilot as Indian pilots have just begun training on the India-specific Rafale aircraft recently. Duchateau is the head test pilot of Dassault Aviation.
“It is a historic day,” Rajnath Singh said in his brief remarks before the formal acceptance of the aircraft. The minister told the audience that Rafale, a French word, translated to “a gust of wind” in Hindi and expressed confidence that it would live up to its name and make the Indian Air Force’s fleet even stronger.
“Rafale will boost India’s air dominance exponentially,” Singh said after receiving the aircraft.
The delivery of the first Rafale aircraft coincided with the 87th anniversary celebrations of the Indian Air Force on Tuesday. A ceremonial parade and air drills of both vintage aircraft and a modern fleet of planes were part of the celebrations at the Air Force’s Hindon base. Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman led the formation of the Indian Air Force’s MiG-21 Bison fighter jets during the parade at the air base. Rafale combat jets, however, will only be seen in the Indian skies in May 2020.WATCH | Rajnath Singh flies in Rafale after taking delivery of the jet for IAF
The Rafale fighter 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 as well as give the Indian defence establishment an edge over Pakistan and to some extent China, in aerial combat, according to defence experts.
The Indian government had purchased 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a defence 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, for which the IAF has been reportedly undertaking preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots.