Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh formally received the Indian Air Force’s first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 such aircraft in the formal acceptance ceremony of the aircraft at Bordeaux, France. He was accompanied by Air Marshal HS Arora, Vice Chief of the Air Staff
Mr. Singh attended the handover ceremony along with his French counterpart Florence Parly at aircraft maker Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac, southwestern France.
Th Minister performed a brief Shastra Puja on the new aircraft as he emblazoned it with an ‘Om’ tilak and laid flowers and a coconut, just before he took off in it for a sortie. He was joined by senior representatives of the Indian Armed Forces to mark the induction ceremony.
Mérignac(France): Defence Minister Rajnath Singh performs 'Shastra Puja', on the Rafale combat jet officially handed over to India. pic.twitter.com/kOOzu430bK
— ANI (@ANI) October 8, 2019
“Our Air Force is the fourth-largest in the world and I believe that the Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat 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,” Mr. Singh said, addressing the gathering in Hindi.
“I have been told that the French word Rafale means andhi in Hindi or gust of wind. I am sure that the aircraft will live up to its name,” he said.
#RafaleInduction : Hon'ble Raksha Mantri Shri Rajnath Singh, officially received the first of the 36 Rafale aircraft for IAF today. He is accompanied by Air Marshal HS Arora, Vice Chief of the Air Staff, for the formal acceptance ceremony of the aircraft at Bordeaux, France. pic.twitter.com/DOlBGcmcMG
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) October 8, 2019
The RB001 Rafale, denoting the initials of Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria who played a key role in striking the deal for the jets in his previous role as IAF deputy chief, was unveiled just moments ago behind him, with the Indian tricolour as its backdrop.
During his sortie, the Defence Minister will sit in the rear cockpit while a French pilot flies the customised Rafale fighter jet with tail number RB-01.
#WATCH Mérignac(France): #Rafale jet carrying Defence Minister Rajnath Singh takes off for a sortie. It is being flown by Philippe Duchateau, head test pilot of Dassualt Aviation. pic.twitter.com/i99hZmB7aF
— ANI (@ANI) October 8, 2019
Today marks a new milestone in the Indo-French strategic partnership and indeed a new high in the bilateral defence cooperation. Such achievements encourage us to do more and that will be on my agenda when I meet minister Parly today,” Mr. Singh said, in reference to the annual Indo-French Defence Dialgoue in Paris.
“This is a historic and landmark day for the Indian Armed forces, which reflects the depth of strategic partnership between India and France. Today marks Vijayadashami — the victory of good over evil — as also the 87th Indian Air Force Day. And therefore a symbolic day in so many ways,” he added.
The first batch of four Rafale jets — part of the Rs. 59,000-crore deal made in September 2016 — are expected to arrive in India in May next year. The rest of the aircraft will arrive by September 2022, for which the Air Force has been making preparations, including training of pilots.