New Delhi: All eyes will be towards Ambala in Haryana. Stage is set for induction of the first batch of five French Rafale fighter jets stationed at the Ambala air force base. French Defence Minister Ms Florence Parly will be attending the formal induction ceremony and a delegation of defence manufacturing industry representatives is expected to accompany the visiting Minister.
“Ms Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces of France, will undertake an official visit on 10th September 2020, to India, where she will attend the official induction ceremony of the first batch of the Rafale omnirole fighter aircraft by the Indian Air Force at AFS Ambala,” a French embassy statement said here. The French Minister will be accompanied, among others, by top executives from Dassault Aviation, Thales Group, Safran, and MBDA, representing the French defence majors that have been partnering with many Indian companies as part of the Rafale agreement, it said.
Ms Parly will meet her counterpart, RajnathSingh and also National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. “The broad-ranging talks will cover, among others, industrial and technological partnership in line with the Make in India programme; operational defence cooperation, particularly maritime security in the Indo-Pacific,” the statement said. Both sides will also discuss modalities of continuing the armed forces’ joint exercises in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic; counter-terrorism cooperation; as well as major regional and international strategic issues.
The ensuing visit will mark Ms Parly’s third official visit to India since 2017 and one of her very first official trips since the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic. “On this occasion, Minister Parly will strengthen France’s forward-looking defence cooperation with India, its foremost Asian strategic partner,” the embassy statement said. The first five Rafale jets included three single-seaters and two twin-seater jets which arrived India on July 29, flying from Mérignac in France via the UAE.
The diplomatic and strategic talks will further President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to “deepen and expand the Indo-French partnership, with strategic autonomy and the defence of a multipolar order as its cornerstones”, the embassy said.
Sources said at Air Force Station, Ambala, the visiting dignitary is likely to be received by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria. During her visit, Ms Parly will also pay a floral tribute to India’s valiant soldiers at the National War Memorial in Delhi. The mission system of the Rafale, according to Dassault Aviation, has the potential to integrate a variety of current and future armaments.
The Rafale has been cleared to operate among other things, the air-to-air “Beyond Visual Range” (BVR) interception, combat and self-defense missiles, in their IR (heat-seeking) and EM (active radar homing). There can also be a very long-range rocket and ram-jet powered air-to-air EM missile. Its combination with the Rafale weapon system is a real paradigm change in air to air affairs. It could also have Laser-guided bombs with different warheads from 500lbs to 2,000 lbs.
The purchase of Rafale jets was marred by political controversies for more than two years and it had generated much heat in the run up to the general elections in India in 2019.