Never imagined I would be flown at supersonic speed, says Rajnath Singh

Merignac (France): India does not purchase arms to threaten any country but to increase its defence capabilities, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday after his nearly 25-minute sortie in the Rafale combat jet.

Describing his sortie in Rafale as a memorable and once in a lifetime experience, 68-year-old Singh said, “I had never imagined that I would be flown at supersonic speed; a very comfortable and smooth flight during which I was able to observe the many capabilities of the jet, its air-to-air and air-to-ground combat capabilities”.

“This aircraft marks a massive enhancement in the Indian Air Force combat capability but that enhancement is not for attack purposes but as a deterrent for self defence. And, the credit for this milestone goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose decisiveness has made this crucial air enhancement possible today,” he said soon after landing.

“I perform Shastra Puja every year in Lucknow and today I took the Rafale as the Shastra for the Puja here in France,” Singh added.

Giving a timeline for the delivery of the 36 jets acquired by India, the minister said he expects the first 18 aircraft to be delivered by February 2021, with the remaining expected by April-May 2022.

Air Marshall Harjit Singh Arora, the Vice Chief of Air Staff who watched over as the minister took flight in a sortie in the Rafale aircraft, said that the newly-acquired Rafale combat for the IAF will mark a significant enhancement in India’s air potency once they are stationed at Ambala in Punjab and Hasimara in West Bengal.

While the first of 36 high-precision Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft with 13 India-specific enhancements sought by the IAF was delivered during the symbolic induction ceremony to the defence minister, the IAF now expects to get delivery of one aircraft every month.

These jets will remain in France for training purposes before the first four being ferried to India in May next year. The first set of 18, the squadron intended for Ambala, are expected to be in place by February 2021 and the remaining 18 for Hasimara by May 2022.

Earlier, Singh flew in the Tejas fighter aircraft from the HAL airport in Bengaluru, on September 19, becoming the first defence minister to fly in the indigenously-built light combat aircraft (LCA).