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Touching skies: Defence minister Rajnath Singh to fly Rafale next week

Huma Siddiqui
Defence minister, Rajnath Singh, Rafale, RB008, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, IAF, Indian Air Force

Defence minister Rajnath Singh will create history when he flies a sortie on the French `Rafale' fighter aircraft next week.

Highly placed Ministry of Defence (MoD) source has confirmed to the Financial Express Online that "The minister will be flying a sortie on the two-seater trainer `Rafale' fighter aircraft when it is formally handed over at a ceremony in Paris on October 8." The first fighter jet has been designated as RB008.

As has been reported earlier, the defence minister will be flying next week to Paris and will be formally handed over the first of the 36 Rafale aircraft from the French company Dassault Aviation. The date is an auspicious day when it is the Air Force Day as well as Dussehra. "The first aircraft will be used for advanced training of the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots and will come at the last to India," said a senior IAF officer.

The 36 aircraft that India has bought are through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route and next year in summer eight will reach India. Eight out 36 fighter jets which India has purchased through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) will arrive next summer.

The ground crew, as well as IAF pilots, are undergoing extensive training on the Rafale being flown by the French Air Force. And once the aircraft which has been manufactured as per India Specific Enhancements (ISE) is formally handed over, the training will be done on that," the officer added.

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This will be the second time that the defence minister will be flying a sortie in a fighter machine. Recently he had flown a 30-minute sortie in indigenous Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas' at the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited airport in Bengaluru. And at the end of the sortie, he had described his experience as exhilarating and had stated that LCA is ready to be exported.

According to the contract inked between the two governments' currently three IAF pilots and two technical officers getting their training on the Rafale being flown by the French Air Force. And this number will go up in 2020 when three batches of eight IAF pilots and technicians will be trained on the India specific aircraft. All the 36 aircraft will arrive in India by 2022.