As expected, the twin-jet Rafale combat aircraft would be delivered to the Indian Air Force (IAF) by July end, top defence officials said, adding that France, at the very beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, informed India of this delivery date.
"French company Dassault Aviation is expected to deliver the much awaited twin-jet combat aircraft Rafale by July end," a senior IAF officer said.
"It would inform us of the delivery date and also if there would be any delay. As of today, everyone is expecting that it would be delivered as told by the French company," he added.
Asked about reports of 27 July as delivery date, the IAF officer said, "We are not aware." A Defence Ministry official had a similar response.
The first four Rafales would start arriving in India by July-end this year from France, it was earlier reported.
These aircraft are first four of the 36 Rafale fighter jets that India is purchasing from France under a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore signed in September 2016.
The aircraft was supposed to be delivered by May-end but due to the Covid-19 situation in both India and France, its delivery was postponed by two months.
On 2 June, France had reaffirmed its commitment to ensure timely delivery of Rafale aircraft despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The expected date of delivery is July end.
France's reaffirmation came when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had a telephonic conversation with French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly. They discussed matters of mutual concern including the Covid-19 situation, regional security and agreed to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation.
Both ministers appreciated the efforts made by armed forces of India and France in fighting the pandemic.
The Indian Defence Ministry had then said that France had reaffirmed its commitment to ensure timely delivery of Rafale aircraft despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
On 8 October, 2019, Rajnath Singh flew a sortie of the inducted Rafale aircraft in France. "The new Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) will make India stronger and will give a boost to its air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region," the minister had said during his address at the Rafale handing over ceremony at France's Merignac.
Some of the major contracts related to procurement and supply of defence equipment signed with foreign countries since 2013-14 include the joint venture for manufacturing of AK-203 rifles, agreement for manufacturing of spares, components, etc required for Russian/Soviet origin platforms and defence equipment, manufacture of Ka-226T helicopters, supply of S-400 long range surface to air missile system, the Rafale fighter jets, the M777 ultra-light howitzer, and the C-17 aircraft.
(With inputs from IANS)
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