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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh leaves for France to receive first Rafale jet on the occasion of Dussehra and Vijaya Dashami

Rajnath Singh will also perform the Shastra Puja (worship of weapons) on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashami and fly a sortie in the Rafale fighter aircraft, officials confirmed.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh left New Delhi for a three-day visit to France on Monday, where he will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and receive the first Rafale aircraft on October 8 (Tuesday), which is the foundation day of the Indian Air Force and also Dussehra and Vijaya Dashami.

The ceremony to hand over the Rafale jet will take place at a facility of Dassault Aviation, the makers of the aircraft, in Merignac of Bordeaux, which is at a distance of around 590 km from Paris.

While a press release by the Government of India’s Ministry of Defence, dated October 7 (Monday), confirmed the news, Rajnath Singh also took to Twitter to let know of his Paris tour.

“Leaving New Delhi for Paris on a three-day visit to France. Shall attend the Annual Defence Dialogue and the Induction Ceremony of Rafale. India-France bilateral relations have made tremendous progress in recent years. Looking forward to further and deepen these ties,” Singh wrote on Twitter.

According to the Press Information Bureau (PIB) release, the Raksha Mantri will participate in the Rafale fighter aircraft handing over ceremony at Merignac along with French Minister of Armed Forces Ms Florence Parly on October 8. He will also perform the Shastra Puja (worship of weapons) on the auspicious occasion of Vijaya Dashami and fly a sortie in the Rafale fighter aircraft, officials confirmed.

Earlier an IAF official was quoted as saying that a French pilot will fly in the front cockpit, while Rajnath Singh will sit in the rear cockpit. The first Indian Rafale aircraft with tail no RB-01 will be used for the sortie, which is one of the 8 twin-seater Rafale jets India has ordered. The remaining 28 planes are of the single-seater variant.

Shastra Puja, meanwhile, is an old Hindu tradition where warriors perform puja of their arms and weapons. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his days as chief minister also used to perform Shastra Puja on every Dussehra of both ancient and modern arms.

On October 9, Rajnath Singh will address the CEOs of the French Defence industry during which he is likely to urge them to participate in the indigenous “Make in India” campaign and the defence expo ‘DefExpo’ to be held in Lucknow from February 5-8 in 2020.

Earlier it was reported that Defence Minister and Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa would lead a large contingent of the Indian government to receive Rafale jets on September 20. However, there had been a change of plan and it was reported on September 10 that an IAF team will be travelling to France to receive the first batch of the Rafale aircraft from France on October 8 on the occasion of Dussehra.

It’s been three years since India signed a deal with the French government for 36 Rafale jets. Rafael is manufactured by Dassault Aviation SA, French aircraft manufacturer of military, regional, and business jets, and is a subsidiary of Dassault Group.

India inked a 36-fighter jet deal with the French manufacturer for over Euro 7.8 billion in September 2016 to arrest the fall of combat squadrons and meet urgent requirements on eastern and western fronts.

According to reports, though the induction of Rafale into the IAF will officially take place on October 8, the jets will start arriving in India from May 2020. The jets will arrive after accommodating the modifications as per the Indian specifications, and training of IAF pilots and personnel in France.

Although small batches of Indian pilots have been trained on French Air Force Rafale planes already, IAF would train 24 more pilots in various batches to be able to fly the much-awaited Rafales from May next year.

Ambala in Haryana and Hashimara in West Bengal will be the airbases where the IAF will deploy one squadron each of the Rafale.

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