By N. C. Bipindra
New Delhi: Five fully-armed Rafale combat aircraft from France will reach India by end of this month and will be ready for deployment from August. The news comes as a boost to the morale of the Indian armed forces facing an irresponsible and expansionist China along the Ladakh de facto borders.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) said today that the aircrew and the ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the Rafale aircraft, including the highly advanced weapon systems and are fully operational now.
The aircrew is the term for pilots, who will be flying these aircraft for the IAF, and the ground crew are the airmen repairing, maintaining and readying the aircraft in the hanger of the Ambala air base before the flight operations.
“Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest,” the IAF said in a statement, noting that the arriving jets will be inducted into the first Rafale squadron at the Air Force Station Ambala on July 29, subject to weather conditions.
The French-origin Dassault Aviation-produced Rafale jets in Indian colours will finally be inducted and operationalised on Aug. 20, the IAF said.
India had signed up for 36 Rafale jets at the cost of $8.2 billion in September 2016 after a yearlong contract negotiations, following Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the purchase plan in April 2015. The Modi government scrapped an earlier 2007 tender for 126 jets, in which Rafale had emerged victorious, in June 2015.
India’s Rafale combat aircraft will provide the IAF not just with a fast and an agile modern fighter jet but one that comes armed with a highly potent set of weapons from European weapon maker MBDA that are unrivalled by any of India’s neighbours, including China.
Here is a look at the capabilities that the MBDA-made weapons bring to the Indian Air Force:
Meteor: The most famous of these weapons is the Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, which is widely recognised as a game changer for air combat. The Meteor is powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor that gives Meteor far more engine power, for much longer than any other missile. This means it can fly faster, fly longer, and manoeuvre more than any other missile — giving Meteor the ability to chase down and destroy agile hostile fighters at even the furthers of ranges. As a result, Meteor has a no-escape zone many times greater than any other air-to-air missile.
SCALP: India’s Rafales will also be equipped with the SCALP deep-strike cruise missile from MBDA. This stealthy weapon has proven repeatedly in combat its unerring ability to strike hardened and protected targets deep inside hostile territory — without the need for the Rafale to enter hostile airspace. SCALP’s operational effectiveness is the result of three key factors: its high survivability thanks to its long stand-off range, low observability and sophisticated mission planning system; its pinpoint terminal accuracy through its highly accurate seeker and target recognition system; and its terminal effectiveness provide by its powerful tandem warhead and multiple detonation modes.
MICA: The IAF’s Rafales will also be equipped with MICA, a missile the Indian Air Force knows very well as it is also part of the upgrade package for the IAF’s Mirage-2000 aircraft. MICA is the only missile in the world featuring two interoperable seekers (active radar and imaging infrared) to cover the spectrum from close-in dogfight to long beyond visual range. Its ability to fly out to beyond visual range in passive mode before the seeker locks on in the final stages of the end game has earned it the nickname “silent killer” as the target has little time to react or to deploy effective countermeasures.