“With this induction, Rafale will become the most advanced aircraft in IAF’s fighter fleet, and brings to fruition a more than two-decades-long, often disrupted, Indian acquisition process of the MRCA/MMRCA,” says Air Marshal M Matheswaran (retd).
July 29th will be a red-letter day for the Indian Air Force (IAF) when five Rafale aircraft would fly into Ambala airbase as part of No 17 Squadron, and begin a new chapter in IAF’s history. “With this induction, Rafale will become the most advanced aircraft in IAF’s fighter fleet, and brings to fruition a more than two-decades-long, often disrupted, Indian acquisition process of the MRCA/MMRCA,” says Air Marshal M Matheswaran (retd).
Sharing his views with Financial Express Online, Air Marshal M Matheswaran (retd), President of ‘The Peninsula Foundation’- a policy think tank based in Chennai, says, “Given the current stand-off with China in Ladakh, which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers, the induction of the Rafale couldn’t have been more timely. IAF has already deployed significantly in the region to send out a clear message to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) against any further adventurism across the LAC. Rafale brings with it very advanced capabilities such as long-range and state-of-the-art AESA radar, coupled with its BVR missile – Meteor. Besides, it brings a plethora of precision weapon capabilities such as the SCALP cruise missile and a range of sensors. Although five aircraft are too few a number, they will still bring a significant jump in capabilities to complement IAF’s mainstay aircraft, the Su-30 MKI.”
According to Air Marshal Matheswaran (retd), “It would take almost a year before the first squadron is fully equipped with its strength of 18 aircraft and all associated equipment and weapons, as well as the training of all its aircrew. Similarly, the second squadron is expected to be operational by the middle of 2022. So it would be at least a year before the Rafale brings the weight of its significant capabilities to air operations in the region. It is sure to bring a quantum jump in IAF’s conventional deterrent capability against both adversaries – Pakistan and China. However, the willingness to use such capabilities without hesitation will be important. This is clearly in the domain of political leadership.”
“Two strategically important airbases, Ambala in the west and Hasimara in the east, will house the first and second squadron respectively. Both bases have established the huge infrastructure necessary for Rafale operations. From an economic point of view, investment in such infrastructure should normally be optimal with a minimum of two squadrons. Obviously, that leaves the option of inducting two more squadrons with the government. If that happens, it would be a huge shot in the arm for the IAF and India’s conventional deterrent capability,” he concludes.