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Rajnath Singh to officially receive Rafale aircraft in France

Paris: In a step that will give an edge to India over China and Pakistan in aerial combat capability, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will officially receive the first Rafale combat aircraft for the Air Force on Tuesday here. 

The Defence Minister will officially accept the aircraft from the French side at the Merignac air base near Bordeaux on the occasion of Air Force Day and Dussehra. "The Defence Minister will also perform Shastra Pooja (worship of arms) during the acceptance ceremony there as part of the Indian tradition: Defence Ministry officials said. 

Before going to Bordeaux, Singh will meet French President Emmanuel Macron where the two countries will discuss a wide range of issues. At Merignac. the Defence Minister will receive the first Rafale combat aircraft manufactured for India bearing the tail number RB-OI, which is the initial of new Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria who played a crucial role in the signing of the biggest ever defence deal of India worth above Rs 60,000 crore. 

The Defence Minister is also scheduled to fly in the first Rafale combat aircraft manufactured for India in France during his visit there. 

"The plane would be flown by a French pilot as Indian pilots have started training on these India specific Rafales just recently," sources in Air Force said. 

Though the Rafale planes would be officially inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) with the Defence Minister's visit, they would start arriving in India only in May 2020 after training of pilots and personnel on it. 
From the IAF, newly appointed Vice Chief Air Marshal HS Arora is scheduled to accompany the Defence Minister for receiving the aircraft. 

On October 9, Singh will address the CEOs of the French defence industry during which he is expected to urge them to participate in •Make in India' programme of the Indian government as well as the DefExpo to be held in Lucknow in February, the official said. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets. 

The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles. The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft. 

The first squadron of the Rafale aircraft will be deployed at Ambala Air Force Station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF around 200 kilometres from the India- Pakistan border. The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal. 

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