Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday, October 8 received first Rafale jet in Merignac, France.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in Mérignac, France on receiving first Rafale said, I am happy that the delivery of Rafale aircraft is on schedule, I am confident that this will add further strength to our Air Force. I wish cooperation between our two major democracies further increases in all sectors.
"I am told Rafale is a French word meaning gust of wind. I am sure the aircraft will live up to its name. I believe Rafale will boost India's air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region," Singh said at the ceremony that was also attended by French defense minister Florence Parl..
The Indian Defence Minister Singh took a tour of Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation's plant before a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first Rafale combat jet.
After the handover ceremony, Singh will fly a sortie in the Rafale jet following a brief Shastra Puja conducted by him, which will conclude with the traditional breaking of a coconut before the new aircraft. Members of the top military brass of France as well as senior officials of Dassault Aviation were present at the ceremony.
India had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016.
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.
The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The manufacturers describe it as a fully versatile aircraft which can carry out all combat aviation missions to achieve air superiority and air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.
"In the defence sector, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is our longest standing export customer and has been flying Dassault aircraft since 1953. The acquisition contract for 36 Rafale signed in 2016 and the modernisation of the Mirage 2000 I/TI are a continuation of this historic partnership," Dassault Aviation said in a statement.
The Rafale jets intended for India are expected to come with certain bespoke modifications for the IAF and have been awaited as a crucial enhancement to India's Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft fleet.
The first Rafale jet will come with tail number RB 001, with RB 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.