Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Sing has expressed his gratitude to the French Armed Forces for ensuring the timely delivery of Rafale aircraft despite a weeks-long halt in production due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
"We also appreciated the efforts made by the armed forces of India and France in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. France has affirmed its commitment to ensure the timely delivery of Rafale aircraft despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic", said Singh on Tuesday.
Following a phone conversation with French Defence Minister Florence Parly, Singh stated that the two sides had discussed matters of mutual concern, including the COVID-19 situation, regional security and agreed to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation.
“Had a telephonic conversation with French Minister of Armed Forces, Ms Florence Parly today. We discussed matters of mutual concern including the COVID-19 situation, regional security and agreed to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation between India and France", he added.
French Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain also confirmed the timely delivery of aircraft on 24 May as apprehensions were raised over a possible delay due to the surging coronavirus cases in the country. France is reeling with 189,220 coronavirus cases with 28,833 deaths.
The Rafale jet has the advantage of carrying a range of potent weapons. The mainstay of the weapons package is the European missile maker MBDA's Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile.
The two countries signed an $8.7 billion contract under an inter-governmental agreement along with an aircraft package supply protocol signed with Dassault Aviation and weapons package supply protocol signed with MBDA for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft in fly-away condition.
The jets are contracted to be made available by 2022 while the first four Rafale are scheduled to arrive in India by July 2020.