As India is handed over the first Rafale combat aircraft, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Tuesday, performed a Shastra puja at the Merignac air base in France. Visuals show the Defence Minister marking the aircraft with the auspicious symbol - 'Aum' with vermillion. The Defence Minister travelled from Paris to Mérignac to receive the first aircraft out of the 36 fighter jets on behalf of the IAF. This meeting was preceded by Singh's 35-minute long meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at Elysee Palace, Paris.
Visuals show a coconut is placed on the wing of the aircraft and holy turmeric threads tied around the wing of the aircraft. This puja is being performed on the occasion of Dussehra, marking the end of Navaratri festival. Rajnath Singh was received by Dassault Aviation CEO Éric Trappier at the handover ceremony. The Defence Minister is scheduled to undertake a sortie in the fighter jet, shortly.
The Rafale is fitted with 14 hardpoints. Its total external load capacity is more than 9 tonnes. Hence, it can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads. Its loitering capacity is 1.5 times that of the Sukhoi. The range is 780 to 1055 km as against 400-550 km of a Sukhoi jet. Similarly, the Rafale jet can engage in 5 sorties per 24 hours against 3 by the Sukhoi. Moreover, The Rafale is powered by two SNECMA M88 engines, which helps it attain a range of more than 3,700 km. Having a top speed of 2223 km, it is equipped with laser-guided bombs weighing 900 kg. 2500 rounds per minute can be fired from its internal cannon. Rafale considered as a 4.5 generation aircraft will now lead the IAF's fighter jets.Also, Rafale maintenance time per flight hour is 2.25 hours against 6-8 hrs for other fighters.
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.