Rafale jets reaching Ambala airbase tomorrow to be game changer for IAF

The IAF’s Rafale jets will be armed with Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, Mica multi-mission air-to-air missiles and Scalp deep-strike cruise missiles — weapons that will allow fighter pilots to attack air and ground targets from standoff ranges and fill a significant capability gap, said one of the officials cited above.

India’s new Rafale fighters will significantly enhance the offensive capabilities of the air force and prove to be a game changer with their advanced weaponry, high-tech sensors, superior radar for detection and tracking of targets and ability to carry an impressive payload, people familiar with the aircraft’s capability said.

The IAF’s Rafale jets will be armed with Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, Mica multi-mission air-to-air missiles and Scalp deep-strike cruise missiles — weapons that will allow fighter pilots to attack air and ground targets from standoff ranges and fill a significant capability gap, said one of the officials cited above.

The Meteor’s no-escape zone is touted to be three times greater than that of current medium range air-to-air missiles.

The twin-engine fighter jet’s ‘payload fraction’ — its maximum take-off weight vis-a-vis its overall empty weight — is unmatched in aircraft of the same class, said a second official, who was associated with the Rafale project.

“The Rafale’s empty weight is 10 tonnes and its maximum take-off weight is around 25 tonnes. Even transport aircraft don’t have that kind of payload fraction. The Rafale can carry a lot of weapons,” he said.

The jet is capable of carrying out a variety of missions — ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance and nuclear strike deterrence. It can carry almost 10 tonnes of weapons and five tonnes of fuel. The fighter can easily switch from one role to another without compromising performance, said a third official.

“The Rafale, by itself, is a very potent weapon platform but one must remember that modern wars are fought between systems. The jet has to be integrated into the IAF’s war fighting architecture — a task that the air force will certainly expedite but will require a finite time,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.

When fully integrated, the Rafale would be an important part of the IAF’s offensive plans, Bahadur added.

The active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar on the Rafale and its weapons package make it a formidable platform, said Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha (retd), a former IAF chief. “The Rafale will be a battle winner for the IAF and a huge morale booster at a time of military tensions with China. However, I feel the numbers are not adequate,” Raha said.

He said the IAF should go in for more Rafale fighter jets as the order for 36 jets was not enough. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s decision to enter into a government-to-government deal with France to buy 36 Rafale warplanes was announced in April 2015 with the deal signed a little over a year later.

This replaced the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by HAL using parts imported from France.

The outcome of the dogfight with Pakistan Air Force on February 27, 2019, would have been vastly different if the IAF was equipped with Rafale jets then, said a fourth official who was involved in assessing that aerial combat.

The dogfight took place a day after the IAF’s Mirage-2000s struck targets in Pakistan’s Balakot in response to the Pulwama suicide attack in Kashmir in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men were killed.

India is looking at arming the Rafale fighter jets with an all-weather smart weapon of French origin that will allow combat pilots to engage ground targets from a standoff range of up to 60km. The IAF is likely to initiate the purchase of Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) using the emergency financial powers granted to the military by the government at a time of border tensions with China.

The Rafale jets have been specially tailored for the IAF.

India-specific enhancements on the jets include cold engine start capability to operate from high-altitude bases including Leh, radar warning receivers, flight data recorders with storage for 10 hours of data, infrared search and track systems, jammers, helmet-mounted sight and towed decoys to ward off incoming missiles.

Source : Hindustan Times

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