NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will formally induct the five Rafale fighter aircraft into the Indian Air Force (IAF) on September 10 at the Ambala air base in Haryana in a ceremony for which French Defence Minister Florence Parly would also be invited.
Defence sources told ANI that the induction ceremony would be held after the return of the Defence Minister from Russia where he is scheduled to attend the meeting of the Defence Ministers of the member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation from September 4 to 6.
“The Rafale aircraft induction ceremony would be held on September 10 with the Defence Minister as the Chief Guest. The French Defence Minister is also being sent an invite to attend the event to mark the strategic friendship between India and France,” the sources said.
Five Rafale fighter aircraft arrived in India from France on July 29 and have started extensive training within 24 hours of touching down in the country. The French-origin fighter aircraft are part of the 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Air Force.
The fighter aircraft have already flown over the Ladakh region and have been familiarising with the terrain over which they have to fly in different parts of the country. The five Rafales which have arrived in the country include three single-seaters and two twin-seaters.
The Rafales armed with the air-to-air Meteor, air to ground SCALP and Hammer missiles are expected to give an edge to the Indian Air Force over its traditional adversaries China and Pakistan in the South Asian skies due to its long-range hit capabilities.
India has contracted for 36 Rafales under the largest-ever defence deal signed by the country worth over Rs 60,000 crore of which the majority payments have already been made to the French firm Dassault Aviation.
The deal was signed in September 2016 with Manohar Parrikar as the Defence Minister, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the then Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in 2018-2019 played a significant role in defending the deal when the opposition alleged corruption in the project before the general elections in April-May last year.
When Rajnath Singh became Defence Minister, he went to France to accept the first Rafale for India in October 2019 on the auspicious festival of Dussehra and also flew in the aircraft which was accepted after performing ‘pooja’ with traditional Hindu rituals.
India has a requirement of more than 300 fighter aircraft of different types in the next 10-12 years which is planned to be met with from both Indian and foreign sources.