Indian Air Force receives first Dassault Rafale

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has officially received its first Dassault Rafale multi-role fighters, which were handed over during a ceremony held on October 8, a date that neatly coincided with the 87th anniversary of the air arm's formation.

The ceremony, held at Dassault Aviation's facility in Bordeaux-Mérignac, France, saw the first three twin-seat Rafale DHs (serials RB001, RB002 and RB003) handed over. The Rafale DH RB001 performed the maiden flight of an IAF example at Mérignac on July 17 this year.

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First Indian Air Force Rafale Handover to the Government of India. Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces of France, gives a speech during the ceremony. Dassault Aviation - S. Randé

The event was attended by Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who toured the Rafale production line and flew in one of the aircraft with a Dassault test pilot.

India’s Rafale acquisition faltered for over a decade, but it eventually signed a contract worth €7.8 billion for the acquisition of 36 jets in 2016, including 28 single-seat Rafale EHs and eight twin-seat DH variants. India selected the Rafale under its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition, which called for a total of 126 aircraft, however the wider MMRCA tender was withdrawn in July 2015 with only 36 Rafales ordered.

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Dassault Rafale DH (serial RB002) in flight. Dassault Aviation - G. Gosset

Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation said: “I am particularly honoured to host this ceremony today as India is part of Dassault Aviation’s DNA. The long and trustful relationship we share is an undeniable success and underpins my determination of establishing for the long term Dassault Aviation in India.”

"We [have stood] alongside the Indian Air Force since 1953, we are totally committed to [fulfilling] its requirements for the decades to come and to be part of India’s ambitious vision for the future," Trappier added.

The initial batch of 18 Rafales is due to be delivered to the recently reactivated No 17 Squadron ‘Golden Arrows’ at Ambala Air Force Station, with the first batch of four aircraft expected by May 2020. All 36 aircraft should be delivered by September 2022. Indian aircrews and technicians have been training on the type in France, whilst infrastructure preparations are well under way India.

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Dassault Rafale DH (serial RB002) in flight. Dassault Aviation - G. Gosset