Rafale aircraft at Dassault Aviation Facility. (ANI file photo)
NEW DELHI :
DEFENCE Minister Rajnath Singh, his French counterpart Florence Parly and India’s top military brass will attend a ceremony in Ambala airbase on Thursday to formally induct five Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force, officials said. Parly and Singh will hold talks in Ambala on ways to further deepen bilateral defence and security cooperation after the ceremony, they said. The French Defence Minister is scheduled to arrive on Thursday morning and will depart late afternoon, the officials said.
The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-Governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. The jets, produced by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are yet to be formally inducted into the IAF. Ten Rafale jets have been delivered to India so far and five of them stayed back in France for imparting training to IAF pilots.
The delivery of all 36 aircraft is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021. A second batch of four to five Rafale jets are likely to arrive in India by November. Sources said a preliminary discussion on a possible procurement of another batch of 36 Rafale jets by India from France may figure in the talks between Singh and Parly. The Rafale jets, known for air-superiority and precision strikes, are India’s first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 year after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.