NEW DELHI: The Rafale fighter jet formally joined the inventory of the Indian Air Force on Tuesday, with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh receiving the first aircraft at the Merignac airport in Bordeaux, France.
Calling the state-of-the-art jet a “gust of wind”, Rajnath said the “Rafale will boost India’s air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region.”
French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly was present at the ceremony that included a shastra puja performed by Rajnath himself.
“I am told Rafale is a French word meaning gust of wind. I am sure the aircraft will live up to its name,” he said, minutes before going off on a sortie with Dassault Aviation’s chief test pilot Phillipe Duchateau on the newly acquired aircraft.
While the formal handover ceremony has taken place, the first batch of four Rafale jets is expected to reach India only by May 2020. The Rafale jet is seen as a game-changer in the region as it is considered a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft. It is armed with unmatched weapon systems and sensors with multi-role capability.
Besides jamming enemy radars, the Rafale has the capability to strike enemy targets from an unchallenged standoff range of more than 300 km.
The Rafale jets will come with India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems, among others.
Earlier, Rajnath met French President Emmanuel Macron and held discussions on strengthening India-France defence and strategic ties. He was then flown to Merignac on a French military aircraft.