Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will receive the first Indian Rafale combat aircraft during his visit to France on October 8. Rafale has been manufactured by the French manufacturing company, Dassault Aviation. Earlier, the Indian Air Force Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa was expected to receive the aircraft from France on September 19-20. Now, Singh will travel to France along with Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar and other senior government officials.
According to government sources, October 8 was chosen as the induction date because both Dussehra and Air Force Day are celebrated on that day. Simultaneously, an Air Force team would visit France and sign documents, which would enable the Indian pilots to start training on the advanced Rafale aircraft. Sources indicate that the pilots might fly the aircraft once the Defence Minister reached the location near Bordeaux. The planes would arrive in India only after being refitted with India-specific enhancements and the training of pilots and personnel.
The government of India signed a deal with the French government and Dassault Aviation to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets to bolster India’s urgent requirement on the eastern and western borders in September 2016. It costs more than 7.8 billion euros. The opposition parties led by the Congress-led a frontal attack on this deal. Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi had demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe various allegations like the escalation of procurement price and undue benefits to a private Indian company. Currently, the Supreme Court has reserved its verdict on a bunch of pleas seeking a review of its December 14, 2018 judgement, which had dismissed the petitions against the Rafale deal.
The first squadron of the Rafale aircraft would be deployed at the Ambala Air Force Station, while the second one would be stationed at the Hasimara base in West Bengal. On Tuesday, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa resurrected the ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron, which was disbanded in 2016. This will be the first unit to fly the Rafale fighter jets. It was initially formed in 1951.
(Inputs from ANI)