Home > Finance > Indian Air Force: First five Rafales just two days away, India’s wait for the gamechanging squadron is finally over

Indian Air Force: First five Rafales just two days away, India’s wait for the gamechanging squadron is finally over


Two days from now, India’s air defence capabilities will acquire a lethal, new edge. The first five Rafale fighters, arriving in India by July 29, are expected to engineer an instant reset in the aerial power equation along both the LoC and the LAC, two of Asia’s perennial battlegrounds.

To be flown in by pilots of the 17 Golden Arrows, the French fighter jets will be inducted at Air Force Station Ambala on the day of arrival itself.

The delivery of the aircraft was earlier supposed to have been done by May end but this was postponed by two months in view of the COVID-19 situation in both India and France.

The trainers will have the tail numbers of the RB series in honour of the Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria who played a pivotal role in finalising India’s largest-ever defence deal for 36 Rafale combat aircraft.

The aircraft on their way from France to India would be refuelled by a French Air Force tanker aircraft in the air around Israel or Greece before they make a stopover in the Middle East.India had signed a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the Indian Air Force.

They said the first batch of Rafale jets is likely to be deployed in the Ladakh sector by the second half of next month. The Meteor, Scalp and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the Rafale jets.

The Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.

The Meteor is powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor that gives it far more engine power for much longer than any other missile, said an official.

The Scalp is a deep-strike cruise missile known for having pinpoint terminal accuracy through its highly accurate seeker and target recognition system.

The Rafales will also be equipped with MICA weapon system which is integrated into IAF‘s Mirage 2000 aircraft.

Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.

The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.

The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal. The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop required infrastructure like shelters, hangers and maintenance facilities at the two bases.

Out of 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers. The trainer jets will be twin-seater and they will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.

Rafale’s induction

For almost two decades, the IAF has been perceived to be handicapped on long-range weapons and sensors vis-a-vis PAF. Rafale will reverse this & give IAF the decisive edge with better sensors and weapons. Each Rafale in the air would require at least two F16s for a counter-challenge.

Officials say for each Pak F-16 in the air, two Su30MKI jets have to be scrambled because of superior radar & missiles of American jets.

Combined with the upcoming deliveries of the S400 air defence system, it will greatly enhance Indian air superiority in the region.

Emergency procurement

In view of the border row with China, the defence ministry this month granted special powers to the three services for individual capital procurement programme worth Rs 300 crore to meet emergent operational requirements.

There will be no cap on the number of procurement programmes and that each acquisition under the emergency requirement category should not cost more than Rs 300 crore, according to officials

As it inducts a first batch of five Rafale jets in the midst of the border row with China in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Air Force is looking at integrating the fleet with new generation air-to-ground missile systems having a strike range of up to 60 KM, people familiar with the development said.

The people cited above said the IAF is zeroing in on procuring new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets, using the emergency financial powers provided by the government to the armed forces for faster acquisition of key weapons and platforms.

Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defence major Safran. The missile was originally designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy.


COMPARED to SU30MKI fighter jets in the IAF, Rafale fares much higher

RANGE: 780-1055 km vs 400-550 of Su30MKI

5 SORTIES per 24 hours against 3 by Su30MKI

India specific modifications

While other nations, including France and Egypt operate Rafale jets, the ones supplied to India are more advanced and modified to meet specific requirements.

Helmet mounted sights & targeting system to give the pilots lightening quick ability to shoot off weapons.

Ability to take off from high altitude airbases like Leh on a ‘cold start’ for quick reaction deployment AMRAAM currently with Pakistan with dead accuracy.

Towed decoy system to thwart incoming missile attacks

French industrial support for 50 years.

Future options for India

IAF keen to acquire at least 36 more Rafale jets. The infrastructure to accommodate these is already in place and the deal for 36 more is expected to cost much lesser as India-specific enhancements have been paid for.

France has made an offer for additional jets, will cost less than €6 billion and will result in major offsets work for Indian industry.

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