First batch of four Rafale jets to arrive in India by May 2020
A FORCE Report
Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh on 8 October 2019 received the first Rafale fighter jet from France, at a ceremony held at Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac, southwestern France. The defence minister called it a historic moment. He said the deal will boost strategic ties between India and France. He also met the French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and held a wide range of deliberations on the defence strategic ties between the two nations. The first batch of Rafale jets will arrive in India by May 2020.
India and France had in September 2016 signed a Rs 56,000 crore Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition, after an announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April 2015. The government cited critical necessity of the IAF as the reason for scrapping the previous deal of 126 Rafale jets and signing a new one for 36 jets. The deliveries had to begin 36 months from signing of contract and are scheduled to be completed in 67 months.
Singh emphasised on the focus to equip the Indian Air Force (IAF) and enhance its capabilities, saying that the new Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) will make India stronger and boost its air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region.
Singh also performed the Shashtra Puja’ (or weapons worship ceremony), as part of Dussehra celebrations. He put an ‘Om tilak on the aircraft and laid flowers and a coconut before taking off for a sortie. Many senior representatives of Indian armed forces were present during the induction ceremony.
“In India, today is Dussehra, the festival where we celebrate victory over evil. It is also the 87th Indian Air Force Day. Therefore, today is a symbolic day in so many ways,” he said.
The defence minister said the strong cooperation between India and France will continue to grow and contribute to global peace, prosperity and environmental sustainability. He also stressed the importance of the ceremony saying it signifies the depth of strategic partnership between India and France.
He also said he was glad to know that a large number of IAF officers and airmen are being trained in France for flying, maintenance support and logistics for handling Rafale fighter aircraft, and he hoped the training in French facilities will help the crew in acquiring knowledge and professional expertise required for performing their task in India.
The defence minister pointed out that the Rafale Project Monitoring Team (PMT) from India had been positioned in France since August 2017 to ensure smooth implementation of the project. He also said he was happy that the delivery of Rafale aircraft was on schedule and would add to the strength of the IAF.
French minister of the armed forces Florence Parly, who was present at the occasion, said, “It is no coincidence that this ceremony falls on Dussehra and also the IAF’s 87th anniversary. It is a reflection of the paramount importance we give to our cooperation with India. This is just the first step of a long journey, as we are committed to meet all needs of the Indian Army. It marks a big day in the history of our industrial cooperation and we remain fully committed to the ‘Make in India’ initiative.”
Dassualt Aviation stated, “The handover of the first IAF Rafale, materialises the determination of the French authorities to fulfil the expectations and needs of the government of India to comfort India’s protection and sovereignty, and it illustrates the exemplary cooperation between Dassault Aviation and the IAF, one of the most remarkable partner Dassault Aviation’s has ever worked with.”
Singh also met heads of defence industries and corporations during his visit to France.