Bordeaux: Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inspects a Rafale Jet at its Dassault Aviation assembly line, in Bordeaux, France, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. Rajnath Singh is in the city for the handover ceremony of the first Rafale combat jet acquired by the Indian Air Force. (PTI Photo) (PTI10_8_2019_000145B)

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday received the first of the 36 Rafale aircraft acquired by the Indian Air Force (IAF) from the Dassault Aviation in France. Singh received the combat jet at a ceremony held at the manufacturer’s facility in the southwestern French town of Bordeaux.

“It is a historic day and shows deepening ties between India and France,” the minister said at the ceremony.

Singh, who earlier held wide-ranging talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris, said his visit was aimed at “expanding the strategic partnership” between India and France.

“The IAF is the shining example of exemplary courage, fortitude, determination and impeccable service to our nation. These men and women in Blue have the ability to touch the sky with grit and glory,” he said.

The minister is scheduled to fly a sortie in the Rafale jet following a brief Shastra Puja conducted by him, which will conclude with the traditional breaking of a coconut before the new aircraft.

Members of the top military brass of France as well as senior officials of Dassault Aviation were present at the ceremony.

India had ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets from France in a deal worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016. While the formal handover ceremony takes place this week, the first batch of four Rafale jets will fly to their home base in India by May 2020.

All 36 jets are expected to arrive in India by September 2022, for which the IAF has been reportedly undertaking preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots.

The Rafale is a twin-jet fighter aircraft able to operate from both an aircraft carrier and a shore base. The manufacturers describe it as a fully versatile aircraft which can carry out all combat aviation missions to achieve air superiority and air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.

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