Almost two decades after the IAF demanded new fighters, and a bruising political dogfight over the last couple of years, India has finally received the first omni-role Rafale jet that can outgun and outrun any existing rival from China or Pakistan as well as play a strategic role in delivering nuclear weapons if required.
"I am told the French word Rafale means 'gust of wind' ... I am sure the aircraft will live up to its name," said defence minister Rajnath Singh, who performed "Shastra Puja" on the first Rafale after it was formally handed over to the IAF at Merignac in Bordeaux region of France, in the presence of his French counterpart Florence Parly on Tuesday.
Rajnath then undertook a sortie in the twin-seat Rafale, which has the tail number "RB-001" to mark the role played by IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria in finalizing the mega deal.
But don't pop the bubbly just yet. The first four of the 36 Rafale fighters, under the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked in September 2016, will touch down in India only in May next year after the IAF induction team of pilots, engineers and technicians are trained in France. All 36 jets will arrive by April 2022, with 18 each to be deployed at Ambala and Hasimara for the western and eastern fronts.
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