At a solemn ceremony in Paris, the defense minister Rajnath Singh was formally handed over the French Rafale fighter aircraft built as per the specifications as given by the Indian Air Force (IAF). For the first time ever, a Shastrapuja was performed as ahead of the handing over ceremony in the presence of the minister and his French counterpart Ms Florence Parly in the French port city of Bordeaux.
The ceremony took place at Dassault Aviation’s facility in Merignac of Bordeaux. This facility is around 590 km away from Paris, and this was covered by the minister on a flight from Paris.
After performing the puja, the minister took a sortie in a two-seat version of the aircraft.
The first Rafale handed over today bears the tail number 'RB 001', which is the initial of the new air chief RKS Bhadauria. All the IAF aircraft have a unique tail number and not only that every fighter and trainers have different sets of alphabets as initials. The air chief has his initial on the first Rafale aircraft as he was the main man negotiating the deal.
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India becomes the fourth country, after France, Egypt and Qatar, to buy the Rafale fighter jets for its fleet. This is the second French fighter it will have in its fleet. Before the formal induction ceremony in IAF, the aircraft is expected to undergo extensive 1500 hours testings by the IAF pilots and crew. These tests are being carried out to validate India Specific Enhancements (ISE) on it.
As was announced by the Air Chief on October 4, the first four out of 36 aircraft will arrive at the Ambala Air Force Base in May 2020. The base is also home to the Jaguar squadron which is there to take primarily counter any threats from Pakistan but also the aircraft with its rapid deployment capability can be used on both fronts in case of conflicts.
Eventually, four aircraft will come to India in a flyaway condition. Once the French fighter aircraft join the base it will add more power to the IAF fleet and will be a game-changer.