Defence Minister, IAF chief to visit France to receive first Rafale fighter jet plane

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and IAF Chief BS Dhanoa are scheduled to receive the first Rafale fighter jet manufactured by French firm Dassault Aviation for India on September 20. “As per plans, a large Indian contingent led by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is being sent by the Central government to accept the Rafale plane in the third week of September,” Defence officials told ANI.

India has signed a deal with France for the acquisition of 36 Rafale combat jets from France, which will start arriving India from May next year. Defence Minister Singh and the IAF Chief will receive the first aircraft from the French authorities near the plane manufacturing plant in Bordeaux.

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The officials said the Indian Rafale is far more advanced than the ones operating with the French Air Force and that is why the plane would continue to be used for training Indian pilots till May next year. The Indian planes have been equipped with a lot of India specific enhancements, which have been fitted at a cost of around one billion euros.

Though small batches of Indian pilots have already trained on the French Air Force planes, the Indian Air Force would train 24 pilots in three different batches till next year May for flying the Indian Rafales. The Indian Air Force will deploy one each squadron of the Rafale combat aircraft at its airbases in Ambala in Haryana and Hashimara in Bengal.

In September 2016, India signed a deal with the French government and Dassault Aviation to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets for over Euro 7.8 billion to arrest the fall of combat squadrons and meet urgent requirements on the eastern and western fronts.The plan to deploy one squadron of the planes at the Saraswat air base in Uttar Pradesh did not work out due to land acquisition issues. Ambala base has been housing Jaguar aircraft squadrons mainly looking after the Pakistan front but due to rapid deployment capabilities, the planes can be utilised on both the fronts in case of requirement.

(With ANI inputs)

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