On successfully completing a 35-minute sortie in India's first Rafale jet, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Tuesday, said that with the inclusion of Rafale jets, Indian Airforce combat capability had increased, to reporters in Bordeaux, France. Explaining his 'sortie' experience, the Defence Minister declared it as an unforgettable flight. He added that his co-pilot- Dassault test pilot Captain Philippe Duchatea, had informed him of the capabilities of the jet. Singh also expressed his joy at being able to fly at supersonic speed. He also informed that the jet was capable of engaging in air-air combat and air-land combat.
"He (Duchateau) detailed the capabilities of the jet. He also flew the jet at supersonic speed. It was an unforgettable experience. I never thought that I would get the oppurtunity to travel in a combat aircraft at supersonic speed. This jet is capable of engaging air-air combat and air-land combat," he said.
The Defence Minister added that even with enhanced capabilities, India does not wish to attack anyone. He said that India will merely use Rafale as a self-deterrent. He informed about the completion of his 'sortie'. Thanking his co-pilot, Dassault test pilot Captain Philippe Duchatea, he said it was very comfortable flight.
"Due to Rafale, our airforce capability has improved. If we are improving our combat capability, it is not for attacking anyone. We are doing this for improving our own self-defence. This will act as a self deterrent. I have personally completed a 'sortie' and took the flight with Captain Phil. It was very comfortable," he said at the Merignac airbase in France.
Earlier in the day, Rajnath Singh undertook a sortie in IAF's new Rafale jet at the Merignac airbase in France. Visuals showed the jet making a smooth U-turn, as it proceeded down the runway. Soaring into the skies, the jet was seen disappearing into the clouds. The Defence Minister was guided by the Dassault pilot for a 25-minute 'sortie' in the newly-handed over Rafale jet. After finishing the sortie, the jet was seen successfully landing at the airbase.
India had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016. While the formal handover ceremony takes place this week, 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 the required infrastructure and training of pilots. The handover ceremony will be followed by the annual Indo-French Defence Dialogue between Singh and French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly back in Paris on Tuesday evening.