New Delhi: France has delivered the first Rafale fighter jet to the Indian Air Force (IAF). IAF deputy chief Air Marshal VR Chaudhary flew the aircraft for about an hour on 20 September.
The IAF is getting the F3R variant of the Rafale, with 36 jets slated for delivery in the 2019-2022 timeframe, under the deal inked by the NDA government in September 2016.
According to Air Force sources, France handed over the first Rafale aircraft to India on Thursday. The tail number of this Rafale aircraft is RB-01, named after Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria, the next chief of the IAF.
Bhadauria has flown the Rafale fighter jet, too. He was the first IAF pilot to fly the Rafale fighter jet. He was appointed the new chief of the Indian Air Force on Thursday. He will replace Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa. Dhanoa is retiring as Chief of Air Staff on 30 September.
Air Marshal Bhadauria is proficient in flying 26 types of fighter and transport aircraft. He has an experience of flying for 4,250 hours, counting his flights in both fighter and transport aircraft. He has also been awarded Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM), Air Service Medal (VM) and ADC.
The Rafale deal had acquired a political hue during in Lok Sabha election, with then Congress chief Rahul Gandhi hurling wild allegations against the India-France government-to-government contract and accusing the Narendra Modi government of benefiting Anil Ambani’s defence company while depriving the public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). None of his allegations could be established as former French president Francois Hollande denied he had spoken to the then Congress chief and the incumbent Emmanuel Macron rubbished Gandhi’s claims. The HAL head clarified that the PSU never accepts offset projects that this cache of 36 Rafale planes offered (relevant details in the article, the link to which appears in this paragraph).
The Congress had to face defeat in the election while, before that, Gandhi had to apologise at the Supreme Court for attributing to it his comment “chowkidar chor hai“.
Preparations are afoot for induction of Rafale into the IAF. The Air Force is preparing to resume its ‘Golden Arrows’ 17 Squadron. It will be the first unit to fly the Rafale fighter aircraft.