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IAF Chief Dhanoa on 4-day trip to France to boost defence ties

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The Rafale fighter jets.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Chief of Air Staff B S Dhanoa has left for France on a four-day visit to ramp up cooperation between the air forces of the two countries in a range of areas, the Indian Air Force said on Sunday.

Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa will also take stock of progress in the supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets by French aviation major Dassault to the IAF under a Euro 7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) deal inked in September last year.

The fighter jets will be capable of carrying nuclear weapons and be equipped with the latest missiles that will give the IAF greater "potency" over arch-rival Pakistan.

Dhanoa is also likely to fly a sortie in a Rafale jet.

During his stay, he is scheduled to hold talks with the top brass of the French armed forces on security challenges being faced by the two countries in the current geo-political scenario and explore ways to further deepen defence cooperation.

The main focus of the visit will be on improving bilateral relations, promote defence ties and outline further areas of defence cooperation between the two countries, the IAF said in a statement.

Defence and security ties between India and France have been on an upswing for the last couple of years and the two nations have resolved to strengthen the relationship further.

The statement said boosting cooperation between the two air forces would be a focus area. The current cooperation between the two forces include military training and joint air exercises.

Dhanoa will also visit the headquarters of the French air force and a few operational air bases.

The Chief of the Air Staff will interact with the top echelon of the French military aviation industry and visit the Rafale PMT Infrastructure.

The Rafale combat aircraft will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet mounted displays, radar warning receivers and low band jammers, among others.

The Inter-Governmental Agreement for the supply of the jets was signed in September last year, 16 months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced India's plans to buy 36 Rafale aircraft in fly away condition.

According to the deal, the delivery of the jets will start in 36 months and will be completed in 67 months from the date the contract is inked.

This visit of the Air Chief would provide further impetus towards increasing defence cooperation between the two air forces and pave the way for greater interaction and cooperation in the future, the IAF said.

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