Defence Minister performed 'Shastra Puja' during official handover of Rafale fighter jet ... Watch videos and photos
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took official handover of Rafale combat aircraft here on Tuesday.
Mérignac (France), Oct 8: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took official handover of Rafale combat aircraft here on Tuesday.
"I am told that Rafale is a French word meaning gust of wind. I am sure the aircraft will live up to its name. I believe Rafale will boost India's air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region," Singh said on the occasion.
Asserting that the state of the art fighter aircraft will boost India's defence capabilities, the minister opined that the defence deal will boost ties with France.
"I am happy that the delivery of Rafale aircraft is on schedule, I am confident that this will add further strength to our Air Force. I wish cooperation between our two major democracies further increases in all sectors," he said.
"Today marks a new milestone in India-France strategic partnership. I look forward to taking a sortie in the Rafale aircraft," he added.
Singh performed the Hindu tradition of 'Shastra Puja' or the worship of weapons before taking delivery of the fighter plane.
"In India, today is the festival of Dussehra also known as Vijayadashmi where we celebrate victory over evil. It is also the 87th Air Force Day, therefore the day becomes symbolic in so many ways," he said.
Dassault Aviation CEO Éric Trappierc welcomed the development adding that the contract with the Indian government will go ahead as planned.
"It is a great day for Indian Air Force and India, also for France and Dassault Aviation. We did what was in the contract and now it is ready to fly. We are very proud," he said.
Rajnath Singh was shown a short audio-visual clip on the history of aircraft manufacturing by Dassault before the handing over ceremony. His French counterpart Florence Parly was also present during the handover ceremony.
"Former (French) President Jacques Chirac had laid the basic groundwork for strategic partnership between India and France along with Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee. We are thankful to them. Today is a milestone day for Indo-France strategic partnership and a new high in bilateral defence co-operation," he said.
Singh is scheduled to fly a sortie in the Rafale jet following the Shastra Puja, which will conclude with the traditional breaking of a coconut before the new aircraft.
India had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016. The first batch of four Rafale jets will fly to their home base in India by May 2020.
All 36 jets are expected to arrive in India by September 2022, for which the IAF has been reportedly undertaking preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots.
The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The manufacturers describe it as a fully versatile aircraft which can carry out all combat aviation missions to achieve air superiority and air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.
Rajnath Singh is on a three-day visit to France accompanied by senior defence ministry officials, including Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and IAF vice chief, Air Marshal H.S. Arora, from Monday.
The IAF had "technically accepted" the first Rafale jet on September 20 after a pre-delivery inspection team completed the documentation formalities. Though Rajnath Singh received the first Rafale jet in a symbolic ceremony on Tuesday, it will be seen in Indian skies only in May 2020 when the first four jets physically arrive in India.
India is the fourth country after France, Egypt and Qatar to have inducted the Rafale into its air force.
The first squadron of the Rafale aircraft will be stationed at the Ambala Air Force Station in Punjab, considered as a strategic airbase given its proximity to the Indo-Pakistan border. Then IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa had resurrected this squadron - known as 17 Squadron or Golden Arrows - in September.
The second Rafale squadron will be based at the Hashimara Air Force Station in Alipurduar district of West Bengal which at present is home to the ageing MiG 27 Russian aircraft.
News24 Bureau with Agency inputs
Photo: Google Image