India received its first French-made fourth generation Rafale fighter jet in Tuesday with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh flying a sortie after the hand over. This is the first of 36 Rafale fighters to be delivered to India. The deliveries will be over in the next five years.
India is the fourth country after France, Qatar and Egypt to have the Rafale fighter aircraft in its air force. The new Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal R. K. S. Bhadauria said, Rafale will surely be a "game changer" for the IAF. The aircraft's strength lies in its advanced radar and an array of Meteor, Scalp and Mica missiles.
The Scalp missile has a range of 300 kilometres. It is an air-launched, stand-off missile aimed at targeting high-value assets like airbases, radar installations, communication hubs and port facilities. The Mica is a beyond visual range stealth interceptor missile. The Meteor is a beyond visual range air-to-air missile.
One should appreciate Rajnath Singh, at the age of 68, flying a sortie with the Rafale aircraft. It shows his mental agility and physical fitness. He sat inside the aircraft not as a passenger, but as a co-pilot. He gave the 'thumbs up' salute before he flew. The Raksha Mantri was wearing G suit and helmet. It is a visual that shall remain etched in our memory forever.
The Indian Air Force has been demanding this fourth generation fighter aircraft for the last 20 years. The first NDA government under Prime Minister A B Vajpayee had started the negotiation process, but the UPA came to power in 2004, and put a halt to this. For ten long years, the Ministry of Defence procrastinated and when Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister in 2014, the process was put back on track at a faster pace. Modi personally went to Paris and it was decided to buy 36 fighter aircraft off-the-shelf because of IAF's urgent requirements.
The Congress led by Rahul Gandhi made the Rafale acquisition a big election issue in 2019, but Narendra Modi stood firm in his resolve to acquire the aircraft for the IAF. All credit for acquiring the Rafale aircraft thus goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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