Rajnath Singh flies in Rafale fighter as France hands over first jet

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He wrote "Om" on the jet and presented flowers and a coconut on it.

The $8.78 billion deal sparked controversy in India past year with the main opposition Indian National Congress party accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of buying the aircraft at almost three times the price being negotiated when it was the ruling party before Modi came to power in 2014.

Mr. Singh later flew with Ms. Parly to Merignac, where Dassault Aviation's Rafale final assembly facility is located, for the handing over ceremony. Finally, he placed a lime in front of the wheels - a practice meant to ward off evil - before flying off on a sortie in the jet. He earlier flew in the LCA Tejas which was recently inducted in the IAF.

After the sortie, the minister said that the jet has increased combat capability of the IAF and the country is doing this for "self-defence".

"The handing over ceremony of Rafale was completed after pooja".

All 36 fighter planes will arrive by September 2022, a small step on the long road towards building a stronger air force. "It will be like a deterrent", he told reporters here. A few netizens raised pertinent questions of enforcing Hindu traditions for a state-level activity when India is a secular country.

Singh described the ride as very comfortable and smooth flight and said it was an unprecedented moment. "I had never thought that one day I will fly at supersonic speed in an aircraft", he said.

"Taking a sortie in Rafale was a memorable and once in a lifetime experience".

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This range of Rafale fighter jets have been specially created to meet the needs of the IAF, which its manufacturer described as a new step in the company's long-standing relationship with India.

The Defence Minister gave credit for the acquisition of the Rafale jets to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "His decisiveness has greatly benefited our national security", he said.

India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore on September 23, 2016 - a deal that was at the centre of a political controversy in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

India chose October 8 for receiving the first Rafale jet not only because it is the occasion of Dussehra, but the day is also celebrated as Air Force Day every year. The first four Rafale jets will arrive in India by May 2020.

"I hope the strong cooperation between two important and large democracies will continue to grow and contribute to global peace, prosperity and environmental sustainability".

Speaking on the occasion, Singh said that the induction of Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force will give a boost to India's air dominance exponentially, adding that the occasion signifies the depth of the strategic partnership between India and France. Singh landed in Paris on Monday night for a three-day official visit, which he said is aimed at expanding the existing strategic partnership between both the countries. Admiral Bernard Rogel, the defence advisor to the French president, was also present at the meeting.

"India is set to become the third largest commercial market for aviation and we are keen to create a strong maintenance and fix base in India to serve customers", Andries said.

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