Rafale to boost India’s air dominance, ensure security in region: Rajnath Singh

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Rafale to boost India’s air dominance, ensure security in region: Rajnath SinghNEW DELHI: Rafale fighter jets will boost India’s air dominance in the region and will ensure peace and security, defence minister Rajnath Singh said at the handing over ceremony of the first combat aircraft to India in France.

The on-time delivery was termed as an addition to the strength of the Air Force by the minister who said that the jets would live up to its name which means ‘a gust of wind’. The first Rafale jet handover ceremony was done on Dussehra, which this year coincides with the Indian Air Force Day. The first jet will arrive in India only in May after training of pilots.

“I am happy that the delivery of Rafale aircraft is on schedule. I am confident that this will add further strength to our Air Force. I wish cooperation between our two major democracies further increases in all sectors,” said Singh, who also flew a sortie after the handover ceremony.

The minister also remembered former French president Jacques Chirac, who passed away on September 26, and his role in establishing a strategic partnership between the two nations along with the late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In New Delhi, Air Force chief RKS Bhadauria said the force was fully committed towards indigenisation, adding that the light-combat helicopter, lightutility helicopter and five squadrons of the Tejas light-combat aircraft will be inducted soon.

Speaking on the 87th anniversary celebrations of the Air Force at the Hindon airbase, the officer said: “To achieve true strategic autonomy, we need to focus on indigenous design and manufacturing. I would like to put on record that the IAF is fully committed towards indigenous development of high technology hardware in consonance with ‘Make in India’.” He also reiterated that for fighter jets of the future, domestically developed systems would be preferred. “The development of indigenous 5th generation advanced multi-role combat aircraft has been launched,” he said.

The officer said the IAF was on the path of rapid modernisation through acquisition of critical capabilities such as the Rafale fighter aircraft and S400 surface-to-air missile.

Wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who had shot down a Pakistani F16 a day after the Balakot strikes, led a formation of MiG21 Bison at Hindon. He belonged to the 51 Squadron that was awarded a citation by Bhadauria. Also part of the flying formation were pilots who undertook the Balakot air strikes on February 26 and the aircraft that thwarted a Pakistan counterattack the next day.