Defence Minister Rajnath Singh prepares for a sortie in a Rafale Jet in Merignac, near Bordeaux, France.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh prepares for a sortie in a Rafale Jet in Merignac, near Bordeaux, France.
PTI Photo

Merignac: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took off for a sortie in a Rafale fighter jet from Merignac here soon after receiving the first of the 36 jets in France on Tuesday.

Rajnath is on a three-day visit to France where he received the first Rafale combat aircraft in Merignac from a facility of Dassault Aviation earlier on Tuesday in the presence of the firm's CEO Eric Trappier and French Defence Minister Florence Parly.

Dressed in a G-suit, Rajnath took to the cockpit of a twin-seater trainer version of the Rafale jet. He was helped with strapping on the security equipment by officials of the Indian Air Force (IAF) who have accompanied him on the trip. He waved his arms and showed the thumbs up sign before the glass cockpit of the fighter jet shut down upon him.

The multi-role aircraft took off from an airstrip near the facility of the Dassault Aviation at 7:24 p.m. IST for a sortie that would last nearly 30 minutes.

The fighter jet was flown by the chief test pilot of Dassault Aviation Phillipe Duchateau. A 'Shastra Puja', traditional weapon worship ceremony, was conducted by Rajnath after receiving the first Rafale jet.

Rajnath had flown a sortie on India's indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) airport in Bengaluru last month.

India has entered into an inter-governmental agreement with France and Dassault to acquire 36 Rafale jets in flyaway condition at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. The first four Rafale jets will arrive in India by May 2020.

"I am particularly honoured to host this ceremony today as India is part of Dassault Aviation's DNA. The long and trustful relationship we share is an undeniable success and underpins my determination of establishing for the long-term Dassault Aviation in India. We stand alongside the Indian Air Force since 1953, we are totally committed to fulfil its requirements for the decades to come and to be part of India's ambitious vision for the future," Trappier said in a statement.

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