SOURCE: Business Standard
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said that France has assured timely delivery of the Rafale fighter aircraft despite challenges arising out of the coronavirus pandemic. The defence minister spoke to his French counterpart during the day and said, “We discussed matters of mutual concern including Covid-19 situation, regional security.”
Rajnath called the French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly and the two leaders agreed “to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation between India and France.” “We also appreciated the efforts made by the armed forces of India and France in fighting the coronavirus pandemic. France has affirmed its commitment to ensuring timely delivery of Rafale Aircraft despite the challenges posed by the pandemic,” Rajnath said.
The call to strengthen bilateral cooperation holds significance as India switches to focus on boosting indigenous defence production blacklisting a range of products from several countries in a bid to push for Atmanirbhar Bharat.
French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain had in May said that there will be no delay in delivery of the 36 Rafale jets to India as the timeline finalised for the supply of the fighter jets will be strictly respected. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh received the first Rafale jet at an airbase in France on October 8.
France is reeling under swelling cases of coronavirus and has emerged as one of the worst-hit in Europe. There were apprehensions that the delivery of Rafale jets could be delayed due to the pandemic.
The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets. The IAF has already completed preparations, including reading required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.
The first squadron of the aircraft will be stationed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from there.
The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop required infrastructure like shelters, hangars and maintenance facilities at the two bases. Out of 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin-seater with almost all the features of the fighter jets.