After officially receiving the first Rafale aircraft, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Tuesday undertook a sortie in IAF's new Rafale jet at the Merignac airbase in France. Before taking off in the jet, the Defence Minister shared his enthusiasm on Twitter, posing for pictures before taking-off with his co-pilot Philippe Duchateau - head test pilot of Dassault Aviation. Visuals show Rajnath Singh and Duchateau in the jet, ready to take off. With the assistance of the ground staff, the Defence Minister is seen flashing a 'thumbs up before undertaking a sortie with Duchateau, piloting the jet.
Visuals show the jet making a smooth U-turn, as it proceeds down the runway. The jet is then seen gain speed, as it takes off. Soaring into the skies, the jet is seen disappearing into the clouds. The Defence Minister is guided by the Dassault pilot for a 35-minute 'sortie' in the newly-handed over Rafale jet. After finishing the sortie, the jet is seen successfully landing at the airbase.
Earlier in the day, Rajnath Singh performed a Shastra puja at the Merignac airbase 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.
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.