New Delhi: In a major boost to India’s aerial combat capability, defence minister Rajnath Singh will officially receive the first Rafale combat aircraft for the Air Force on Tuesday at the Merignac airbase near Bordeaux. Interestingly, the occasion coincides with Dussehra and Air Force Day.

 

“The defence minister will also perform Shastra Pooja (worship of arms) during the acceptance ceremony there as part of the Indian tradition,” defence ministry officials said.

According to reports, before going to Bordeaux, the minister will meet French President Emmanuel Macron where the two countries will discuss a wide range of issues. Though the minister will receive aircraft today, it will reach India in May. The agreement was signed three years ago.

How will Rafale boost India’s defence?

Ahead of handing over of the first Rafale jet to India, European missile maker MBDA said that the aircraft with most advanced weapons package comprising meteor and scalp missiles will provide the country unrivalled deep strike capability and air dominance in the region.

MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the 36 Rafale jets being procured by India at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.

“India will get new capabilities with Rafale aircraft which the country never had before. Both Scalp and Meteor missiles will be game-changer for Indian Air Force,” MBDA’s India chief Loc Piedevache said to PTI.

Meteor is known to be the best beyond visual range missile in the world while Scalp is a deep strike weapon. Meteor is a next-generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.

The Scalp is an air-launched long-range deep strike missile, designed to deal with pre-planned attacks.

Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.

India had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016. All 36 jets are expected to arrive in India by September 2022.