Merignac (France), Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said in France on Tuesday that the Rafale deal was possible due to the decisiveness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Rajnath was speaking soon after he completed a 30-minute sortie on a twin-seater trainer version of the Rafale fighter aircraft.
The multirole combat aircraft, flown by Phillipe Duchateau, the chief test pilot of Dassault Aviation, manufacturer of Rafale jets, took off from an airstrip near the facility of the Dassault Aviation at 7:24 p.m. IST. It landed back at the airstrip after completing a few manoeuvres at 7:54 p.m. IST.
“The credit for India’s acquisition of the Rafale jets should go to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was all due to his decisiveness. India will receive the first 18 Rafale jets by February 2021. By April-May 2022 we will receive all 36 jets,” Singh told media channels after completing the sortie.
The pilot Duchateau informed that the Rafale jet flew beyond supersonic speeds with Rajnath seated in the rear of the cockpit. The first jet was handed over to Rajnath by the French Defence Minister Florence Parly.
“The combat capability of India definitely increases after the acquisition of the Rafale jet. But it is not from the perspective of attack. It is for self-defence,” added Rajnath.
Rajnath took off for the 30-minute sortie in Merignac soon after completing a Shastra Puja after the first of the 36 Rafale jets was handed over to him on the occasion of Dussehra on Tuesday.
The Shastra Puja (traditional weapon worship ceremony) was conducted by Rajnath upon the first Rafale jet before he flew on the sortie. Rajnath, who has been performing the Shastra Puja for the past several years in his personal capacity, inscribed the ‘Om’ symbol on the fuselage of the first Rafale jet with vermillion as part of the ceremony.
Rajnath is on a three-day visit to France where he received the first Rafale combat aircraft in Merignac from a facility of Dassault Aviation earlier on Tuesday in the presence of the firm’s CEO Eric Trappier and the French Defence Minister Parly.
Dressed in a G-suit and dark sunglasses, Rajnath took to the cockpit of a twin-seater trainer version of the Rafale jet. He was helped with strapping on the security apparatus by officials of the Indian Air Force (IAF) who have accompanied him on the trip. He waved his right arm and showed the thumbs up sign before the canopy of the glass cockpit of the fighter jet shut down upon him.
Rajnath had flown a sortie on India’s indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport in Bengaluru last month.
India has entered into an inter-governmental agreement with France and Dassault to acquire 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. The first four Rafale jets will arrive in India by May 2020.