After concluding a 35-minute meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, on Tuesday, shared the first photos of the meeting. The photo shows the Defence Minister shaking hands with Macron in Paris. Rajnath Singh is on a three-day visit to France to receive the consignment of the 36 Rafale aircrafts as part of the intergovernmental contract. The Defence Minister will travel in a French military plane to Mérignac, from Paris, to receive the first Rafale combat aircraft, according to ANI.
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. he 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.
The Rafale jets intended for India are expected to come with certain bespoke modifications for the IAF and have been awaited as a crucial enhancement to India's Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft fleet. The manufacturers describe it as a fully versatile aircraft that can carry out all combat aviation missions to achieve air superiority and air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes, and nuclear deterrence. The first Rafale jet will come with tail number RB 001, with RB denoting the initials of Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria who played a key role in striking the deal for the jets in his previous role as IAF Deputy Chief. The Rafale jets are a long-awaited inclusion into the Air Force, to strengthen India's defences.