BORDEAUX: Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has formally received the first of the 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation in France on Tuesday.
At Rafale manufacturer, Dassault Aviation in Bordeaux, Rajnath Singh who is on a three-day visit to France accepted the first jet after the ribbon-cutting ceremony and a Shastra Puja, a traditional ritual of worshipping weapons during Dussehra.
“Rafale will strengthen our Indian Air Force and enhance its capability. Surely, timelines would be adhered to, be it jets or other weapon systems,” said Rajnath Singh who had a test ride in the new fighter jet made with Indian-specific adaptations.
On the historic day before receiving the Rafale, the Indian Minister also met the French President Emmanuel Macron and discussed stronger strategic ties with France.
“These fighter jets have brought massive enhancement to our force but it is to specially remark that Rafale jets are not for attack purposes but it has bought solely for self-defence. And all the credits for this milestone goes to our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who worked hard for Rafale to be possible,” he added.
The day the defence minister chose to receive the first Rafale also marked the 87th Indian Air Force Day. Before starting the sortie, keeping the national flag as a backdrop, Rajnath Singh also cracked coconut and marked “Om”, the Sanskrit mantra in the aircraft.
The defence minister seated in the rear cockpit and the French pilot flew the specially made aircraft which is number as RB-01. And the RB stands for newly appointed IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhaduria, in recognition for his key role in the Rafale deal 2016.
The first bunch of Rafale jets is expected to arrive in May next year. And the final bunch will be delivered by September 2022. The Rs. 59,000-crore Rafale deal was made in September 2016.