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Rafale coming to India! Rajnath Singh becomes first Indian minister to fly a sortie in French fighter jet

Huma Siddiqui
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Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday created history in Paris when he flew a sortie on the French ‘Rafale' fighter aircraft after it was handed over to him following a ceremony. The minister flew a sortie on the two-seat trainer Rafale-the first aircraft which has been designated as RB 001.

The Rafale has been manufactured according to India Specific Enhancements (ISE). The initial of RB 001 on the tail fin of the first aircraft is that of the present air chief RKS Bhadauria — he is the man who not only led the negotiations but also closed the deal.

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Today was the second time Singh flew a sortie in a fighter aircraft. The first one was recently when he flew a sortie in the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ in Bengaluru, and it had lasted almost half an hour. The minister at the end of that sortie had described his experience as exhilarating.

The Rafale aircraft will formally join the Indian Air Force next summer, 2020. The aircraft in which the minister flew a sortie is being used for advanced training of the pilots and the ground crew of the IAF.

Singh, in the morning at around 10 am local time met with the French President Emmanuel, for almost 35 minutes and discussed further strengthening of ties between the two countries.

The IAF is going to get 36 Rafale fighter jets from the French company Dassault Aviation, out of which the very first Rafale made just for India was formally handed over to Singh. Today is an auspicious day for two reasons: it is Dussehra and also the end-user the IAF is celebrating its 87th birth anniversary today. The air chief has at a press conference stated that the first delivery of the four aircraft will be next summer. These aircraft are coming through the Foreign Military Sales route (FMS).

The contract inked between the two sides includes training of pilots and the ground crew in batches. So far the first of the three batches of the pilots and crew including technicians and engineers are undergoing extensive training in Paris on the French Air Force’s Rafales. And from today they will start their training on the Indian Rafale.