Given the tense border stand-off with China Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Thursday the induction of the five Rafale fighter jets are important given the kind of situation that has been created on the country’s borders in recent days.
Equipped with a wide range of weapons, the Rafale is intended to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence missions. The Rafale is referred to as an ‘omnirole’ aircraft by Dassault.
India inked an inter-governmental deal with France in September 2016 to procure 36 Rafale jets worth Rs 59,000 crore. Five jets have arrived and the next batch of the aircraft is likely to arrive in October this year. The last batch is likely to reach by the end of 2021.
“The induction of Rafale fighter jets represents strong ties between India and France, stressing that the strategic ties between the two countries have grown stronger,” Singh said.
He was speaking during the induction ceremony of the Rafale jets in Ambala. The first five jets that arrived on July 29 were formally inducted as part of the 17 Squadron, nicknamed Golden Arrows, at Ambala Air Force Station. Rajnath Singh was accompanied by his French counterpart Florence Parly.
“This induction could not have happened at a more opportune time considering the security scenario today,” Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria said at the induction ceremony.
The ceremony at Ambala Air Force Station included a ceremonial unveiling of the Rafale aircraft, a traditional ‘Sarva Dharma Puja’, Air Display by Rafale and Tejas aircraft as well as by ‘Sarang Aerobatic Team’. It was followed by the traditional water cannon salute for the fighter jets. The proceedings culminated in the ceremonial induction of Rafale to Golden Arrows.
This is French Defence Minister Parly’s third official visit to India since 2017, and one of her first trips abroad since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
France is one of India’s closest partners in defence and security. The country has also supported efforts at world bodies such as the UN and the Financial Action Task Force to crack down on terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
A statement issued by the French embassy on Wednesday said that Parly’s visit is aimed at strengthening France’s “forward-looking defence cooperation with India, its foremost Asian strategic partner.”