In n a major boost to Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jet squadron, five Rafale fighter jets were inducted into IAF on 10th September , 2020. These fighter jets have been inducted into IAF’s Squadron 17. The induction was performed by Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his french counterpart Florence Parly. These fighter jets can carry three times more payload than the current Tejas jet . The Rafale fighter jet is important for strengthening the military capabilities of India . It is significant for providing a strategic advantage to India’s military in its currently disturbed neighbourhood.
The fighter jets, built by French Aviation firm Dassault took off from the Merignac Air Base in Southern France’s Bordeaux and reached Ambala Air Base on 29th July, 2020. It covered a distance of about 7000 km from France to India with air-to-air refuelling and a single stop at the French Air Base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was a moment of extraordinary pride for the IAF pilots who brought the Rafale fighter aircrafts to India from France.
The pilots include Group Captain Harkirat Singh (Jaipur, Rajasthan), who is the commanding officer of 17 squadron of IAF, Group Captain R. Kataria (Gurugram, Haryana), Wing Commander Abhishek Tripathi (Jalore, Rajasthan), Wing Commander Manish Singh (Balliya, Uttar Pradesh), Wing Commander Siddhu and Wing Commander Arun (Bihar). The touchdown of Rafale combat aircrafts in India marks the beginning of a new era in military history of India. The first squadron has been readied in the Ambala Air Base whereas the second one will be readied in the Hasimara Air force station in West Bengal.
History of Rafale Deal
In August 2007, Ministry of Defence, under the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government issued a request for proposal to procure 126 Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMCRA) fighters. After four years, in May 2011, Air Force shortlisted Rafale and Eurofighter jets. Dassault Aviation of France came up with the lowest bid in January 2012 after which a Work Share Agreement was signed between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Dassault Aviation of France. Under the 2014 Agreement between the two, the work to build 108 aircrafts was shared in the ratio of 70 per cent and 30 per cent between the two organisations respectively. The remaining 18 aircrafts were to be imported into India in a fly away condition. However, India and France were unable to decide the price of the aircraft.
In 2015, under the present NDA government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Paris in April 2015 and announced a decision to buy 36 Rafale fighters via a government-to-government deal. French President Francois Hollande visited India in January 2016 and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on purchase of Rafale jets is signed between India and France for $ 7.8 billion (59,000 crore). In this deal, HAL was replaced by Reliance Defence Limited (RDL) as the offset partner in the deal.
The present deal was criticised by the opposition parties including the Congress Party on the basis of the higher prices of the current deal. The criticism was based on the promise that under the UPA government, the price of one aircraft was only 629 crores whereas under the present government, the price has gone up to nearly 1611 crores. The Rafale aircraft will be important for India as it is presently facing a two-front war from both China and Pakistan. Under the deal, Dassault has promised that all the rafales will be delivered to India by the end of 2021 in various phases.
Features of Rafale Aircraft
The Rafale jet has become the most advanced fighter jet in Indian Air Force fleet. As compared to the Sukhoi SU-MKI 30 (currently the best aircraft), the Rafale is faster and has a wide range and more capabilities. It is an ‘omnirole’ aircraft and comes with a host of weapons and can perform a variety of function such as aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence. It is a 4.5 generation aircraft that has supersonic abilities. It can attack any target from surface-to-air as well as air-to-air. Rafale’s combat radius is 3700 km which is far greater than China’s J-20 Combat Aircraft’s radius of 3400 km. The main features of Rafale are
• It has a top speed of 1.8 mach and has overall empty weight of 10 tonnes. It can carry a maximum take off weight of 24.5 tonnes. It has a total length of 15.3 metres and wing span of 10.9 metres.
• The Rafale has a service range of 50,000 feet with a top speed of 2222 km/hr. Though it has an overall range of 3700 km but it can be extended with the help of mid-air refuelling.
• This fighter jet is equipped with stealth technology, which can effectively hide it from the enemy radars. It is smaller than the Sukhoi aircraft and hence it can be advantageous for the Indian Air Force during warfare.
•The Rafale is a nuclear ready aircraft as it can deliver nuclear weapons from both surface-to-air as well as air-to-air. It is equipped with oxygen generation system due to which there is no need to refill liquid oxygen.
• One of the special feature of Rafale is that it can take off from a smaller runway of 1300 feet which makes it capable of launching from an aircraft carrier ship
• The Rafale cockpit has Hands on Throttle and Stick Control (HOTAS). It is equipped with a heads up-wide angle holographic display from Thales Avionique which provides aircraft with control data, mission data and firing targets. SNECMA. It is suitable for
• The Rafale is powered by two M88-2 engines from high altitude penetration missions.
low altitude penetration and .
• The Radar system in Rafale is more powerful from Sukhoi MKI’s PESA radar The missiles also have GPS enabled navigation system and imaging infrared terminal guidance.
Rafale’s Missile Systems
The missile system of Rafale has the potential to integrate a large variety of current and future armaments. The Rafale can incorporate following missile systems
It is an air-to-air Beyond Visual Range (BVR) interception, combat and self defense missile. This missile is able to fire upto 100 kms and is already incorporated in the current Mirage fighter jet.
It is a very long range air-to-air missile. It is a very long range rocket and ram-jet powered air-to-air missile. It has a striking capability of 150 km. The combination of Meteor weapons system with the Rafale jet is a game changer for India
It is Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range Missile It is modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision guided weapon series missile. It is fitted with GPS and imaging infrared guidance kit that enables it to hit its targets precisely.
Other missiles on the Rafale include SCALP long-range stand-off missile. It also has an AM39 EXOCET anti-ship missile. It can carry laser guided bombs with different warheads varying from 500 lbs to 2000 lbs. The most important feature in the missile systems of Rafale is that it can be customised according to the specific needs of countries.
Importance of Rafale for India
The idea to induct additional fighter jets in the IAF has been there since 2001 The actual process began in 2007. The Defence Acquisition Council, headed by the then Defence Minister approved the tender to buy 126 aircrafts in August 2007 Now the Rafale jets have been incorporated in the Indian Air Force, they will be able to provide unmatched capabilities to the IAF. India
The following are the benefits of Rafale for India
• Rafale can easily take off from high altitude Leh and Ladakh region on a cold start. This will be beneficial for India as it is facing a threat from both the Pakistan as well as Chinese side. Indian forces can manage any threat on the border with the versatile capabilities of Rafale.
•India will have unmatched air power with the inclusion of 36 fighter Rafales in the Air Force. It can be used to manage the neighbourhood challenge that has become disturbed after the Chinese incursions into Indian territory in Ladakh region. The sanctioned strength of IAF squadrons is 42 but India has currently only 31 squadrons. To improve the squadrons strength Rafale will be helpful.
• The previous aircrafts bought by India were Sukhoi in 1996. Rafale will provide a necessary upgrade to the IAF’s fighting capabilities
• India is a regional player in South Asia. Rafale’s inclusion will give a necessary boost to the regional power dynamics of India in South Asia. • It is one of the finest combat aircrafts available in the global market. It is much more advanced than China’s J20 aircraft, which is its main rival in the region
•The aircraft has proved its unmatched capabilities in air combat missions in Syria in the last few years. India has become Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and fourth country to have the strategic platform after France, Egypt and Qatar .
•The nuclear delivery capabilities of India will be strengthened further with the inclusion of Rafale in IAF.
The Rafale jet will be a paradigm shift in India’s air power capabilities. As terrorism, expansionism etc. are common threats for countries, India and France should built capabilities and cooperate with each other in areas of defence and technology. With the inclusion of Rafale jet in the IAF, it is a beginning that can be carried on further to face common challenges emerging from the expansionist attitude of a few countries. It is essential for India to strengthen and further enhance its capabilities in the South Asian region to become a regional and global superpower.
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