New Delhi: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa are set to travel to Paris next month to receive the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force, government sources said on Wednesday.
They said top military brass of France as well as senior officials of the Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, would also be present at the handing over ceremony which is likely to be held on September 20.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is leaving for France on Thursday on a bilateral visit during which further boosting of defence cooperation between the two countries will be discussed.
Sources said a high-level team of the Indian Air Force is already in Paris to coordinate with the French officials on the handing over ceremony.
India had inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs. 58,000 crore.
The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.
The sources said the first squadron of the aircraft will be deployed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from there
The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
A number of IAF teams have already visited France to help Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, incorporate India-specific enhancements on-board the fighter aircraft
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.
The Congress raised several questions about the deal, including on rates of the aircraft, and alleged corruption but the government has rejected the charges.
The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop required infrastructure like shelters, hangers and maintenance facilities at the two bases.
In July 2017, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, during his visit to France, flew a Rafale jet at the Saint-Dizier airbase to gain first-hand experience of the aircraft.
According to the deal, the delivery of the jets was to be completed in 67 months from the date the contract was inked.