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France Set to Deliver First of 36 Rafale Fighter Jets to India in September

New Delhi (Sputnik): India and France have reiterated that their defence cooperation is one of the strongest pillars of their bilateral relationship, and they are making substantial progress in this sector.

This fact was highlighted on Thursday, 21 August, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, currently on a two-day state visit to Paris, announced that France would be delivering the first of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft to New Delhi next month.

"Defence Cooperation is a strong pillar of our relationship. I am happy that we are making good progress on various projects. The first of 36 Rafale aircraft will be delivered to India next month. We will increase cooperation in technology and co-production," Prime Minister Modi said during a joint media briefing with French President Emmanuel Macron.

President Macron said: "The first aircraft will be getting (handed over) to India next month. It is a big thing for us."

India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the country's Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal B. S. Dhanoa are expected to fly to Paris next month to receive the first Rafale fighter jet.

Briefing media persons on Friday, India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale highlighted the importance of the strategic partnership between India and France.

On bilateral defence cooperation between both countries, Gokhale said: "Obviously, bilateral cooperation in defence and the civil nuclear [field] figured in a general way. These are areas of long-standing cooperation. We have just concluded successful naval and air exercises "Varuna" and "Garuda" respectively. The army exercise is also going to take place."

The Rafale aircraft made for India will be equipped with specific enhancements demanded by New Delhi. The Indian Air Force is training 24 pilots in three different batches to fly the French combat aircraft.

The Indian Air Force will deploy Rafale aircraft squadrons at its airbases in Ambala in Haryana state and Hashimara in West Bengal state.

In September 2016, India signed a deal with French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation to acquire 36 Rafale fighter aircraft worth over Euro 7.8 billion to remedy the shortfall of Indian Air Force (IAF) combat squadrons.

The IAF currently has 30 squadrons, which is 12 short of the central government authorised fleet of 42.

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