Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was officially handed over the first of the 36 French-built Rafale jets here on Tuesday. Singh expressed confidence that the fighter jet will live up to its name. "Rafale is a French word meaning 'gust of wind'. I'm sure that the aircraft will live up to its name. Our Air Force is the fourth largest in the world and I believe that the Rafale aircraft will make us even stronger and give a boost to India's air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region," Singh said during the handingover ceremony.
'Omnirole by design', the Rafale can carry out a very wide range of missions, including nuclear deterrence and buddy-buddy refuelling.
"When the Rafale programme was launched, the French Air Force and French Navy published a joint requirement for an omnirole aircraft that would have to replace the seven types of combat aircraft then in operation," as per the fighter jet's manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
"These requirements were taken into account from the start of the Rafale's development, leading engineers to invent an aircraft which goes beyond the needs of each type of mission," the French company added.
With a service ceiling of 50,000 feet, the combat aircraft can reach maximum speeds of 750 knots.
It can carry out both air-to-ground strikes, as well as air-to-air attacks and interceptions during the same sortie. The jet is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase, giving it outstanding survivability.
The mission system of the Rafale has the potential to integrate a variety of current and future armaments.
It has been cleared to operate weapons like the MICA air-to-air 'Beyond Visual Range' (BVR) interception, combat and self-defence missiles, the METEOR very long-range air-to-air missile, the HAMMER -- Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range -- modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision guided weapon series, laser-guided bombs with different warheads, and "specifics armaments" selected by some clients.
The Rafale is also fitted with 14 hard points, out of which five are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance. The jet's total external load capacity is more than nine tonnes. "Hence, Rafale can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads," according to Dassault.
As per the manufacturers, the pilot interface is very easy to use and relies on a highly integrated suite of equipment which has capabilities for short-term, medium and long-term actions.
The design of the cockpit gives a wide field of view at the front, on both sides, and at the rear.
Egypt, Qatar and India have signed contracts for respectively 24, 24 and 36 Rafales with Dassault. "By the end of April 2017, no less than 148 Rafales had been delivered to the Armee de l'Air and the French Navy while a further nine had been built for Egypt," the French manufacturer added.
The omnirole combat airplane is slated to be the French armed forces' prime combat aircraft until 2050 at least.
Singh performed 'Shastra Puja' during the handing over ceremony which unveiled the fighter jet bearing the tail number RB-001.
The 'RB' denoted the initials of Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria who played a key role in the signing of the biggest ever defence deal of India worth above Rs 60,000 crore for 36 fighter planes.
The French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly, members of the top military brass of France as well as senior officials of Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, were also present at the ceremony.
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