In September 2016, India has a deal with the French government to purchase 36 Rafale jets at a cost of around Rs. 58,000 crore. In this deal, we get 28 single-seater jets and 8 twin seaters for training.
In the backdrop of the 26 February dogfight between IAF and the Pakistan Air Force (PAF), PM Modi had earlier said the outcome of the aerial battle would have been “something different” if India had Rafale jets.
Rafale is one of the finest fighters in the world. Rafale is a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) that is said to boost India’s air dominance exponentially, currently safeguard by fighter jets like Russia made Sukhoi Su-30 MKI and MiG 29, along with French Mirage- 2000 and indigenously built HAL Tejas.
Rafale is a modern fighter jet known for its agility and speed. It is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles. It is powered by two SNECMA M88 engines, each capable of providing up to 50 kilonewtons of dry thrust and 75 kilonewtons with afterburners. With a range of 3,700 km and a maximum speed of 1389 km/h. The landing ground run is 450 metres without drag-chute. It is 15.27 metres long and a wingspan of 10.80 metres.
The empty weight of Rafale is about 10 tonne and the maximum take-off weight of 24.5 tonnes. It is fitted with 14 hardpoints and five of these are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance. The biggest advantage of Rafale is that it is capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Currently, Mirages are the designated aircraft for nuclear weapons.
The game-changing missile onboard the Rafale is the Meteor. Manufactured by European firm MBDA, the Meteor is a very long-range rocket and ram-jet powered air-to-air missile. Rafale weapon system brings about a paradigm shift in air-to-air affairs. It will be able to take out enemy aircraft at a range of over 100 km without even crossing the Indian air space. It has no escape zone of over 60 km.
Another key missile is Scalp long-range air to ground standoff cruise missile. It will also be equipped with Mica air-to-air missiles. The IAF plans to further integrate the BrahMos NG missiles with the Rafale when it is finally made by the Indo-Russian joint venture.
France uses Thales TALIOS laser designator pod but Indian Rafale comes with an Israeli Litening pod for sensor commonality. Instead of standard Sagems’s AASM Hammer air to surface munition, it will be integrated with Spice guidance kits.
Rafale has a Front Sector Optonics(FSO) system, which is immune to radar jamming while operating in optronic wavelengths and Spectra-integrated electronic warfare suite that provides long-range detection, identification, and localization of infrared, electromagnetic and laser threats.
It has the ability to take off from high altitudes airbases like Leh on a cold start for quick reaction deployment.
It comes with 13 Indian specific enhancements, including Israeli mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infrared-red search, and tracking systems among others.
For almost two decades, the air force has been outgunned when it comes to long-range weapons and sensors by the Pakistani air force. Officials admit that for each Pakistani F 16 in the air, two Su 30MKI jets have to be scrambled because of the American origin jets superior radar and missiles. The Rafale will reverse this and give IAF the decisive edge with better sensors and weapons. Each Rafale in the air would require at least two F 16s for a counter challenge. Combined with the upcoming deliveries of the S 400 air defense system next year, it will greatly enhance Indian air superiority in the region. Combined, both systems will give India the ability to carry out airstrikes at will within Pakistan as a means to counter-terror attacks.
Comparison with Su- 30 MKI:
- Loitering Capability: 1.5 times of Su 30MKI
- Range 780-1055 km vs 400-500 of Su 30MKI
- 5 sorties per 24 hours against 3 by Su 30 MKI ( A sortie is a combat mission of an individual aircraft, starting when the aircraft takes off.)
‘RB’ on the trainer aircraft’s tail stands for the initials of Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria, the IAF chief and the single-seater comes with initial of ‘BS’ which, stands for former IAF Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa.