MERIGNAC (FRANCE), Oct 8 - Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday formally received the Indian Air Force�s first Rafale fighter jet from a series of 36 such aircraft purchased from France.
Singh attended the handover ceremony along with his French counterpart Florence Parly at aircraft maker Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac, southwestern France.
The minister performed a brief Shastra Puja on the new aircraft as he emblazoned it with an �Om� tilak and laid flowers and a coconut, just before he was to take off in it for a sortie. He was joined by senior representatives of the Indian Armed Forces to mark the induction ceremony.
�Our Air Force is the fourth-largest in the world and I believe that the Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft will make us even stronger and will give a boost to India�s air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region,� Singh said, addressing the gathering in Hindi.
�I have been told that the French word Rafale means andhi in Hindi or gust of wind. I am sure that the aircraft will live up to its name,� he said.
The RB001 Rafale, denoting the initials of Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria who played a key role in striking the deal for the jets in his previous role as IAF deputy chief, was unveiled just moments ago behind him, with the Indian tricolour as its backdrop.
�Today marks a new milestone in the Indo-French strategic partnership and indeed a new high in the bilateral defence cooperation. Such achievements encourage us to do more and that will be on my agenda when I meet minister Parly today,� Singh said, in reference to the annual Indo-French Defence Dialogue scheduled for later on Tuesday in Paris.
�This is a historic and landmark day for the Indian Armed forces, which reflects the depth of strategic partnership between India and France. Today marks Vijayadashami � the victory of good over evil � as also the 87th Indian Air Force Day. And therefore a symbolic day in so many ways,� he added.
Parly described the Rafale as a symbol of the best France has to offer India to protect its sovereignty and also of the French commitment to the �Make in India� initiative.
�It is no coincidence that this ceremony falls on Dussehra and also the Indian Air Force�s 87th anniversary. It is a reflection of the paramount importance we give to our cooperation with India,� said Parly.
�This is just the first step of a long journey, as we are committed to meet all needs of the Indian Army. It marks a big day in the history of our industrial cooperation and we remain fully committed to the Make in India initiative,� she said.
This range of Rafale fighter jets have been specially designed to meet the needs of the IAF, which its manufacturer described as a new step in the company�s long-standing relationship with India. � PTI