France Hands Over To India Its First Rafale During A Ceremony Attended By Rajnath Singh And His French Counterpart


New Delhi: As part of the Rs 59,000-crore deal for 36 warplanes, France has handed over to India its first Rafale fighter jet during a ceremony attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart Florence Parly. This is an important step towards building a stronger air force of India.

While the first Rafale has been formally inducted in the Indian Air Force (IAF), the first batch of four jets will fly to their home base in India next April-May. The first 18 jets will arrive by February 2021, with the remainder 18 expected in April-May, 2022.

“Our air force is the fourth-largest in the world and I believe that the Rafale 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 at the handover ceremony at Merignac in France, which coincided with the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) 87th founding day and the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

Singh performed “shastra pooja” at the induction ceremony in keeping with the Hindu tradition of warriors worshipping their weapons and arms on Dussehra. The minister wrote “Om” on the jet’s nose and placed a coconut, a laddoo and flowers on its front section as part of the ritual.

“In India, today is Dussehra, the festival where we celebrate victory over evil. It is also the 87th IAF Day. Therefore, today is symbolic in so many ways,” said Singh, who also flew in the IAF’s first Rafale.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria made a mention of the Rafale in his address at the IAF Day event at Hindon airbase, saying the force is on the path to rapid modernisation through acquisition of crucial technologies and critical capabilities such as the Rafale jets.

The first Rafale’s RB-001 tail number denotes the initials of the IAF chief: Rakesh Bhadauria. He led the complex negotiations for the Rafale deal.

“Besides adding to the IAF’s strike power, the Rafale will augment much-needed beyond visual range capability. But the most important message it sends across is one of deterrence,” said Air Vice Marshal (retd) Manmohan Bahadur, additional director general of the Centre for Air Power Studies.

The jets have been specially tailored for IAF. India-specific enhancements on the Rafales include a helmet-mounted sight, radar warning receivers, flight data recorders with storage for 10 hours of data, infrared search and track systems, jammers, cold engine start capability to operate from high-altitude bases, and towed decoys to ward off incoming missiles.

“I have been told the French word Rafale means ‘aandhi’ in Hindi or gust of wind. I am sure the aircraft will live up to its name,” Singh said. The Indian fighters will be equipped with Meteor missiles built by European defence major MBDA Missile Systems. The Meteor’s no-escape zone is touted to be three times greater than that of current medium range air-to-air missiles.

The twin-engine jet is capable of carrying out a variety of missions – ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance and nuclear strike deterrence. It can carry more than nine tonnes of weapons on as many as 14 hard-points.

The Rafale programme was launched after the French air force and navy wanted an omni-role fighter to replace seven different types of combat aircraft operated by them.


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