Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who received the first of the 36 Rafale jets earlier this week, on Sunday said that if they had the fighter aircraft at the time of Balakot airstrike they could have eliminated terror camps even while sitting in India.

Speaking at an election rally in Haryana’s Karnal, the defence minister said they need not have gone to Pakistan to carry out the aerial attack against terror camps in February this year if they had the French-built fighter jets back then. “If we had Rafale fighter aircraft with us, then I think we need not have gone to Pakistan for Balakot airstrike. We could have eliminated terror camps there, even while sitting in India,” Singh said.

The first of the 36 French-built Rafale fighter jet bearing the tail number RB-001 was formally handed over to India on Tuesday.

The aircraft was received by Singh at the Rafale fighter jet handing-over ceremony at Merignac in the presence of French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly. Members of the top military brass of France as well as senior officials of Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, were also present at the ceremony.

After the handing-over ceremony of the Rafale jet, Singh had said that the induction of Rafale fighter jets into the Indian Air Force will give a boost to India’s air dominance exponentially.

“Our airforce is the fourth largest in the world and I believe that the Rafale medium multi-roll Combat aircraft will make us even stronger and give a boost to India’s air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region,” Singh had said.

“It is a historic and landmark day for Indian armed forces. This ceremony signifies the depth of the strategic partnership between India and France,” he added.

In 2016, India signed a Rs 59,000 crore deal with France to procure 36 Rafale aircraft – the first batch of which will fly into India by May 2020. All 36 jets are expected to reach India and be ready for deputation in the IAF by 2022.

“Seven Rafale jets will arrive in India by April or May. The aircraft is capable of reaching up to the speed of 1800 kmph. I flew in a Rafale jet at the speed of 1300 kmph,” Singh had said at a press conference after his France visit.