India got the formal delivery of the first of the 36 long-awaited Rafale fighter jets bought from the Dassault Aviation in France. Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is on a three-day visit to France, accepted the handover at a facility of Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation in Bordeaux. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was preceded by Shastra Puja - the traditional worship of weapons during Dussehra. The minister also went for a sortie in the aircraft - a process that was also meant to test the India-specific adaptations made. Earlier, Singh met French President Emmanuel Macron and discussed stronger strategic ties with France.
"It is a historic day and shows deepening ties between India and France," Rajnath Singh said at the handover ceremony for the Rafale aircraft. "Rafale will add to the strength of IAF. Our focus is to enhance the capability of IAF. We are sure that all timelines would be adhered to, be it jets or weapon systems," Singh said.
"This aircraft marks a massive enhancement in the Indian Air Force combat capability but that enhancement is not for attack purposes but as a deterrent for self defence. And, the credit for this milestone goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose decisiveness has made this crucial air enhancement possible today," he said.
The first batch of four Rafale jets - part of the £5.9 billion deal made in September 2016 - are expected to arrive in India in May next year. The rest of the aircraft will arrive by September 2022, for which the Air Force has been making preparations, including training of pilots.