While massive political war between the Centre and the Opposition over the Rafale fighter jet deal is at the peak, three Rafale aircraft touched down in Bengaluru today for the biennial five-day Aero Show. While two of these French-made fighters will be used for flying exercises, the third one will just be used for static display.
The advanced fourth generation fighters landed at the Yelahanka Air Force Station on the outskirts of Bengaluru, where the 12th edition of the Aero India show takes place from February 20-24.
However, these three Rafale jets are not the ones that have been made for India by French aerospace major Dassault. Dassault is set to deliver four Rafale fighters to India in September; they will be tested before being flown. These jets will partly replace the ageing Russian-built MiG-21 fighters that are being phased out. The twin-engine, multi-role fighter can carry out attacks both air-to-air and air-to-ground.
Rafale combat aircraft flew at lower than its normal speed, as a mark of respect to Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi, the pilot of the Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team who lost his life in a plane crash, a day ago. A mid-air collision of two planes on Tuesday during rehearsal led to the death of Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi and injury to two more pilots, who ejected to safety. The Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team stayed away from the event.
Video clips of the incident showed two jets crashing to the ground and bursting into flames near Yelahanka airbase after brushing against each other mid-air.
Earlier in the day, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated the 12th edition of Asia’s premier air show, where she invited investors to capitalise on the ecosystem in aerospace and defence manufacturing in India. Sitharaman made a strong pitch for Make in India programme of the government saying 100 per cent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in defence manufacturing makes it lucrative proposition for investment.
The Aero India’s official website said a total of 61 aircraft would be on display and 403 exhibitors would be part of the biennial event.