Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday held a telephonic conversation with his French counterpart Florence Parly during which she conveyed that the Rafale jets will be delivered to India as scheduled notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
The defence ministry said the two ministers discussed matters of mutual concern including regional security scenario and agreed to strengthen the bilateral defence cooperation.
It is not immediately known whether the border standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh figured in the talks.
“France reaffirmed its commitment to ensure timely delivery of Rafale Aircraft despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the ministry said in a statement.
It said the two ministers agreed to work together to fulfil the India-France joint strategic vision on the Indian Ocean Region.
India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.
Singh received the first Rafale jet at an air base in France on October 8 but it is yet to be brought to India.
There were apprehensions that the delivery of Rafale jets could be delayed due to the pandemic.
The Rafale jet is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.
Meteor is a next generation of BVR 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.
Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.
The first squadron of the aircraft will be stationed at Ambala air force station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF. The Indo-Pak border is around 220 km from there.
The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.