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Aero India 2023

Ready to provide additional Rafale jets if India requires: French defence minister

Indian Air Force Rafale fighter aircraft. A PTI photo

NEW DELHI (PTI):  French Defence Minister Florence Parly today said her country is ready to provide additional Rafale fighter jets to India if it requires and noted that the use of the same aircraft by the two strategic partners is a reflection of "real asset and strength" in their ties.

Parly, who is on a visit to India, made the comments at a think-tank ahead of her wide-ranging talks with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

The French embassy on Thursday said 33 Rafale jets have already been delivered to India on schedule despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 59,000 crore.

"I am very happy that the Indian Air Force is satisfied with its Rafale and we are very proud that despite Covid, the 36 aircraft will be delivered on time according to the contract... It's a real achievement," Parly said in reply to a question.

"Using the same aircraft is a real asset and strength. I am sure that there is room for new developments. We are ready to answer any additional needs of request that could be made by India," she said.

The French minister also referred to India's planned induction of a second aircraft carrier and indicated that France will be interested in supplying the carrier-based jets.

"We know that the aircraft carrier will soon be...that aircraft are needed. We are open and ready to provide any other Rafale if this is India's decision," she said.

India's first indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) Vikrant is scheduled to be inducted into the Indian Navy by August next year.

The first batch of five Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, arrived in India on July 29 last year.

It is learnt that France was pitching for starting negotiations for the procurement of another batch of 36 Rafale jets by India.

The Rafale jets are India's first major acquisition of fighter planes in 23 years after the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia.

The Rafale jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons.

European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missiles and Scalp cruise missiles are the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.

Meteor is a next-generation beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.

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