In what would bring a huge relief for the Indian Air Force, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and current Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa are all set to visit France in order to officially receive the first Rafale jet manufactured for the Indian Air Force. Dassault Aviation, which is involved in building the Rafale fighter jets, is all set to handover its first fighter jet built for the Indian Air Force.
IAF sources in New Delhi said, “In presence of the IAF Chief, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh will accept the aircraft in presence of various defense and civilian bureaucrats there.”
The handing over ceremony is expected to take place around the end of the third week of September and is likely to be attended by a large contingent from the French government as well. In this regard, the Indian Air Force would train 24 pilots in three different batches for flying the Indian Rafales till May next year, for this is when the planes would officially arrive in India.
This is the culmination of a long fought battle in order to bring a sophisticated fighter jet like Rafale to India. It all began in September 2016, when India signed a deal with the French government and Dassault Aviation to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets for over Euro 7.8 billion in order to counter the fall of combat squadrons and meet urgent requirements on the eastern and western fronts. The deal was signed in the presence of the then Defence Minister [now deceased], Manohar Parrikar, and ended an unnecessary delay in upgrading the IAF squadrons initiated under the watch of the then UPA government.
However, unable to bear the fact that someone could clear an important deal like the Rafale one without any ‘cuts’, the Congress party cried foul, accusing BJP led NDA, Dassault Aviation and the French government of foul play, despite their continuous clarifications issued time and again denying the same. When asked about why they delayed the deal themselves, one of the Congress politicians, then the Defense Minister under the UPA government had this to say, “I delayed the deal to protect the national interest. The Prime Minister sacrificed our national interests.”
As per sources, the Indian Air Force will deploy one squadron of the Rafale combat aircraft at its airbases in Ambala in Haryana and Hashimara in Bengal. Interestingly, according to some media sources, the French side is all set to offer an immediate sale of two more squadrons to the Indian Air Force that has been grappling with depleting combat force levels. This means that as PM Modi is slated to meet French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday, the French government is ready to offer 36 additional Rafale fighter jets to IAF.
Moreover, if the 2016 deal for 36 Rafale jets was signed for €7.87 billion, the mentioned deal for the additional 36 aircrafts would cost significantly lesser since the payment for fixed costs covering India’s specific enhancements, training equipment and infrastructure has already been made. As such, we can now say with pride, that the Rafale is coming home.