India took a significant step in strengthening air power and defence preparedness with the first five Rafale fighter aircraft, built by Dassault, flying out from Merignac airbase in Bordeaux, France, to India on Monday. This also marks a new milestone in the strong and growing India-France defense cooperation. The Rafale aircraft will cover a distance of nearly 7,000 km from France to India with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop en route in UAE. They are scheduled to reach India on 29 July 2020.
In accordance with the contract, Indian Air Force pilots and supporting personnel have been provided full training on aircraft and weapon systems by Dassault. Further batches of Indian Air Force personnel will continue the training over the next nine months.
The first Rafale fighter was handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in October 2019 in a ceremony attended by the French Minister for Armed Forces Madame Florence Parly and the Indian Defence Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh. Delivery of ten aircraft has been completed on schedule. Five will stay back in France for a training mission. The delivery of all thirty six aircraft will be completed on schedule by the end of 2021.
India’s Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf was there to see off the Rafale aircraft on Monday. He said that the long awaited and much needed two squadrons of Rafale would add great strength to IAF and our defence capabilities. He met the Indian Air Force pilots and wished them a safe flight to India. He congratulated them on becoming the first Indian pilots to fly one of the world’s most advanced and potent fighter aircraft and wished them success in meeting the nation’s expectation of playing an important role in India’s defence. He also thanked French Air force for support and Dassault for delivering the aircraft on schedule despite the ongoing pandemic crisis. Éric Trappier, Chairman Dassault Aviation and Air Commodore Hilal Ahmad Rather, the Air Attaché to France, were also present on the occasion apart from other officials.
India and France have a long history of cooperation in fighter aircraft, which includes India›s acquisition of French Toofanis in 1953, then Mystere, Jaguars and the Mirages. In a gesture of friendship, the Government of France will send an aircraft with medical equipment and experts on 26 July to support India›s efforts against the Covid-19 Pandemic.