India has ordered 36 fighters (which means two squadrons). The fighters ordered will have around 13 Indian specific enhancements and are expected to be integrated into the machines once the full delivery is completed by next year-end.
They are here. The five fighter aircraft from the French Aerospace Company Dassault Aviation landed at the Ambala Air Base late on Wednesday (July 29) after completing a journey of 7000 km from France to an airbase in UAE. After a gap of almost two-plus decades the Indian Air Force (IAF) has got a Western fighter jet in its inventory.
More about the aircraft
It is an ‘Omni role’ aircraft (can take on several missions in one sortie) and is classified as 4.5 generation fighter. It is considered to be one of the most potent fighters compared to the F-16 which the neighbouring country has or the JF-20 which Chinese claim is the 5th generation stealth aircraft.
Rafale is already flown in several critical missions across the globe in Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya. India has ordered 36 fighters (which means two squadrons). The fighters ordered will have around 13 Indian specific enhancements and are expected to be integrated into the machines once the full delivery is completed by next year-end. These enhancements include the ability to start in extreme weather conditions – very cold and high altitude, there is also an Israeli helmet-mounted display.
The Tail Numbers
The single-seaters will come with BS, and the twin-seater will have RB on its tail.
Why RB & BS?
The initial ‘RB’ on the trainer aircraft’s tail is the initials of IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who was the main lead in the negotiations of the deal. And the single-seater fighter jet will have the initial of the former Air Chief BS Dhanoa. And his initial is there as he was a deputy chief when the deal was being negotiated. The first aircraft which was handed over to defence minister Rajnath Singh last year in Paris has the tail number RB 001. This plane will be the last to arrive in India. As it is being used for training the second batch of pilots and crews, as well as testing out all the Indian specific enhancements.
The critical capabilities of the aircraft
It has a range of around 3,700 km and with 10-tonne empty weight. These aircraft are fitted with 14 hardpoints. Out of these, five can be used for dropping heavy ordnance as well as drop tanks. It has a total external load capacity of 9.5 tonnes. With the maximum speed of nearly twice the speed of sound, without the drag-chute, its ground run is around 450 meters.
Game changer weapons on the French fighter
This aircraft could be the biggest game-changer for the IAF as it can be tuned to carry nuclear weapons too. Also, another significant game-changer is the Rs 20-crore worth Meteor air-to-air missile, which has been manufactured by the European company MBDA. This is a long-range rocket and ram-jet powered and has a range of over 150 km. It can hit the target without leaving the Indian airspace up to 120 km. Neither Pakistan nor China has these missiles from MBDA.
As has been reported earlier, the Rs 40 crore Scalp long-range air-to-ground stand-off cruise missile is 5.1 metre long and weighs around 1,300 kg. With this missile fitted onboard the Rafale, the IAF will not have to leave the airspace to hit a target at 600 km in the enemy land.
According to experts, the Scalp is a strategic weapon for the IAF which can be used for deep strikes, used in penetration or impact or airburst modes.
And in the wake of ongoing tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the IAF has ordered for the French HAMMER air-to-ground precision-guided weapon system. This has been done under the emergency procurement power which the three services have been given. It comes with a range extension kit which means that it can be fitted on standard bombs of different makes.
These aircraft can also be fitted with the Indo-Russian BrahMos NG when it is ready and the Mica air-to-air missiles can be fitted too.
What radars and sensors are there onboard the machine?
The Indian version will have an Israeli Litening pod – it is used for sensor commonality across platforms in the Indian inventory.
There is RBE2 Active Electronically Scanned Radar too. It helps in giving unprecedented levels of situational awareness. This is possible due to earlier detection.
Front Sector Optronics (FSO) system is there which is immune to radar jamming while operating in the optronic wavelengths.
Also, there is Spectra-integrated electronic warfare suite, which provides long-range detection, and identification of infrared, electromagnetic and laser threats.
The system onboard the fighter jet has radar, laser and missile warning receivers. There is a phased array radar jammer and a decoy dispenser for threat countering. This has been developed by MBDA and defence contractor Thales.