New Delhi: The first batch of five Rafale fighter jets will be formally inducted into the Indian Air Force on Thursday in Ambala airbase, at a time India is engaged in an escalating border row with China in eastern Ladakh. A galaxy of dignitaries including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, his French counterpart Florence Parly, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar will attend the ceremony. "The program will include ceremonial unveiling of the Rafale aircraft, a traditional 'Sarva Dharma Puja', air display by Rafale and Tejas aircraft as well as by 'Sarang aerobatic team'," an IAF spokesperson said, describing the ceremony as a "very important milestone" in the history of the force. The Rafale jets, produced by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, are known for air-superiority and precision strikes. IAF Spokesperson Wing Commander Indranil Nandi said a traditional water cannon salute will be given to the Rafale fleet before its ceremonial induction into the 17 squadron of the force. The first batch of five Rafale jets arrived in India on July 29, nearly four years after India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to procure 36 of the aircraft at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore. The French delegation at the ceremony will include French envoy Emmanuel Lenain, Air Gen Eric Autellet, Vice Chief of French Air Force, Chairman and Chief Executive of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier and CEO of missile maker MBDA Eric Beranger. After the ceremony, Parly and Singh will hold talks in Ambala on ways to further deepen bilateral defence and security cooperation after the ceremony, they said. Ten Rafale jets have been delivered to India so far and five of them stayed back in France for imparting training to IAF pilots. The delivery of all 36 aircraft is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2021. The second batch of four to five Rafale jets is likely to arrive in India by November. the legendary De Havilland Vampire.
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