Defence Minister Rajnath Singh landed in France on Tuesday for a three-day visit, during which he will receive the Rafale jet on behalf of the Indian Air Force.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris today and receive the first of the much-awaited 36 Rafale jets in Bordeaux. He will also perform ‘Shastra Puja’, which is a ritual involving the worship of arms. Following the puja, the Defence Minister will take a sortie in the fighter jet.
During the sortie, a French pilot will fly the customised Rafale fighter jet, while the Defence Minister will seat in the rear cockpit. The fighter jet has a tail number RB-01, which stands for newly appointed IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhaduria. RKS Bhaduria played a significant role in finalizing the Rafale deal in 2016.
Top military officials of France as well as senior officials of Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, will be attending the ceremony. “This great nation is India’s important strategic partner and our special relationship goes far beyond the realm of formal ties,” Singh said on Twitter after arriving in Paris.
The handover of the jet comes on the day India is celebrating the festival of Dussehra and the 87th Air Force Day. “Greetings to all @IAF_MCC personnel and their families on the 87th IAF Day. The IAF is the shining example of exemplary courage, fortitude, determination and impeccable service to our nation. These men and women in Blue have the ability to touch the sky with grit and glory,” the Defence Minister further said.
In September 2016, India had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth ₹59,000 crores. While the formal handover ceremony will take place this week, the first batch of four Rafale jets will reach India by May 2020. All 36 Rafale jets will arrive in India by September 2022.