As the political controversy over the Rafale fighter jet deal continues in India, manufacturing of the aircraft customised as per specifications of the Indian Air Force (IAF) is making progress. The first aircraft built by Dassault Aviation for the IAF, a two-seater variant, made its maiden flight in France and is designated RB 008, according to official sources. “RB stands for Air Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria as he had a major role in the contract negotiations,” an official source said. Air Marshal Bhadauria was the Deputy Chief of the IAF during the contract negotiations for 36 Rafale jets and is presently the Air Officer Commanding-In-Chief of the IAF’s Training Command. In September 2016, India and France signed a €7.87 billion Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale multi-role fighter jets in fly-away condition. The surprise announcement for the 36 aircraft was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a visit to Paris in April 2015, citing “critical operational necessity” of the IAF. RB 008 will be the 36th aircraft to be delivered to the IAF in 2022, 67 months after the contract is signed, the source added. As per terms of the IGA, deliveries will begin 36 months after the signing of the contract and be completed in 67 months.
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