Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who will receive the first Rafale combat aircraft for India on Monday left for France. Singh will receive the first Rafale on Tuesday. Incidentally, Tuesday (October 8) also happens to be Air Force Day in India. He may also fly a sortie in the first Rafale aircraft to be officially inducted in the Indian Air Force (IAF) tomorrow. Singh has recently flown a sortie in Tejas aircraft in Bengaluru.
During his trip to France, the Defence Minister will receive the aircraft in Merignac near Bordeaux and is likely to fly in it after it is officially inducted in the Indian Air Force (IAF), according to defence sources.
Singh will also continue the tradition of performing the 'Shastra Pooja' on Vijayadashami. 'Shastra Puja' i.e. the worship of weapons is an old Indian tradition where warriors perform 'puja' of their arms and weapons.
"During his days as Home Minister, Rajnath Singh would perform 'Shastra Puja' every Dushehra. Now as a defence Minister also, he would continue the tradition," officials were quoted as saying in several reports.
Earlier last month, the Indian Air Force received the first Rafale combat aircraft at the Dassault Aviation manufacturing facility in France. It will officially be inducted into the IAF during Rajnath Singh's visit.
The first aircraft with tail number RB-01 was received by a team of Indian Air Force officers led by Air Marshal VR Chaudhary in France who also flew in the plane for around one hour.
The tail number RB-01 has been named after Indian Air Force Chief-Designate Air Marshal RKS Bhadauria who had played a very important role in finalising the country's biggest-ever defence deal.
The planes would now officially be inducted on October 8 into the IAF but the planes would start arriving in India only in May 2020 after validation of the India Specific Enhancements and training of pilots and personnel.
The Indian planes have been equipped with a lot of India-specific enhancements, which have been fitted at a cost of around one billion euros.
Though small batches of Indian pilots have already trained on the French Air Force planes, the IAF would train 24 pilots in three different batches till May 2020 for flying the Indian Rafale fighter jets.