Rajnath Singh leaves for Paris to get the first Rafale jet aircraft
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday left for Paris on a three-day visit during which he will receive first of the 36 Rafale jets and will hold wide-ranging talks with his French counterpart Florence Parly.
On Tuesday, Rajnath Singh will meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris and is expected to discuss issues relating to defence and security ties between the two countries, officials said.
Singh will later leave for French port city of Bordeaux where he will receive the first Rafale jet at a ceremony to be attended by Parly and top brass of Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of the aircraft.
After receiving the jet, Singh will perform ‘Shastra Puja’ (worship of weapons) on the occasion of Dussehra and then will take a sortie in the aircraft, officials said.
The ceremony to hand over the Rafale jet will take place at a facility of Dassault Aviation in Merignac of Bordeaux, which is at a distance of around 590 km from Paris.
Though Singh will receive the first of the 36 Rafale jets on Tuesday, the first batch of four aircraft will come to India only by May next year.
Later in the day, Singh will also hold the annual defence dialogue with Parly during which both sides will explore ways to further deepen defence and security ties.
On October 9, Singh will address the CEOs of leading French defence firms during which he is likely to urge them to participate in “Make in India” initiatives in defence sector in India.
Defence and security ties between India and France have been on an upswing in the last few years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited France in August during which both sides resolved to further enhance the already close defence ties.
Sources said a high-level team of the Indian Air Force is already in France to coordinate with the French officials on the handing over ceremony.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 59,000 crore.
The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.
The sources said the first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from there.
The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
A number of IAF teams have already visited France to help Dassault Aviation incorporate India-specific enhancements on-board the fighter aircraft.
The Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.