IAF deputy chief Air Marshal Raghunath Nambiar flies Rafale jet in France as political slugfest continues in India

NEW DELHI: Away from the politics over the deal to procure Rafale jets from France, the Indian Air Force Deputy Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Raghunath ‘Nambi’ Nambiar took a test flight of the fighter aircraft.

As per a report by defence website LiveFistDefence, the IAF Deputy Chief completed a front-seat sortie in a Rafale at the Istres air base in France. He flew a Dassault-owned Rafale testbed sporting the India-specific software and system enhancements, separate from the first Rafale for India.

Nambi is well known for being among first test pilots on the LCA Tejas programme and flying precision strikes on Tiger Hill during the 1999 Kargil conflict.

Earlier this month, three Rafale jets had landed at the Maharajpur air base in Gwalior. The French pilots had made a layover while returning from Exercise Pitch Black 2018, the multilateral air training exercise that concluded recently in Australia. During the exercise in Australia, the IAF pilots had got a first-hand experience of the Rafale jet when an Indian pilot was onboard the fighter aircraft.

Amid allegations from Congress and other opposition parties, the IAF has recently been defending the Rafale jet.

Nambiar had recently said that Rafale is being discussed for the wrong reasons and once it is inducted into the IAF, it would ‘revolutionise airpower in the sub-continent’. “The Rafale gives us full spectrum capabilities to a large extent and would revolutionise airpower in our sub-continent having capabilities which do not exist,” he had said earlier this month.

Justifying the procurement of the jets, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff, had also said that IAF needs to strengthen its fleet to match the neighbours who have been modernising their military at a rapid pace.

Air Force Vice Chief Air Marshal SB Deo had also said that the IAF is waiting for the aircraft while adding that the allegations are being made about the deal by people who do not know the facts. “We’re waiting for the aircraft. Rafale is a beautiful and capable aircraft. I shouldn’t comment but I can tell you all this discussion and all these things going on in Rafale..because we know a lot about how everything went, we find that, people don’t have the information,” the Vice Chief of Air Force had said.

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