India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons and missiles.

The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.

The first squadron of the Rafale aircraft will be deployed at Ambala Air Force Station, considered one of the most strategically located bases of the IAF around 200 kilometres from the India-Pakistan border. The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.

Rafale is a French-designed twin-engine, delta wing, omni role fighter aircraft. The technology is state-of-the-art technology 4+ generation. The aircraft can be used for numerous roles including Air dominance, interdiction, aerial recce, precision long-range strikes including in the maritime environment.

Indian Air Force expects delivery of first five Rafale fighters in late July

Rafale, categorised as a 4.5 generation aircraft for its radar-evading stealth profile, will be a game changer for the Indian Air Force (IAF) since most of the aircraft in its inventory – including the Mirage 2000 and the Su-30 MkI – are classified as either third- or fourth generation fighters.

The excitement over the touchdown of the first five Rafale jets on Indian soil later next week and their looming induction into the Indian Air Force (IAF) — an extremely significant chapter in India’s military history — have been overshadowed by recent events.

No one could have envisioned this kind of “war-like “situation with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in September 2016, when India inked a pact with France’s Dassault Aviation to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets (two squadrons of 18 each) at a cost of Rs 59,000 crore.

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“The first batch of five Indian Air Force (IAF) Rafael is likely to arrive in India by end July 2020. The aircraft will be inducted at Air Force Station Ambala on 29 July subject to weather. No media coverage is planned on arrival. The final induction ceremony will take place in second half of August 20 wherein full media coverage would be planned,” a formal IAF statement had said earlier.

Features of Rafale:

The Rafale has been cleared to operate the following weapons:

  •  The MICA air-to-air “Beyond Visual Range” (BVR) interception, combat and self defense missiles, in their IR (heat-seeking) and EM (active radar homing) The MICA can be used within visual range (WVR) and beyond visual range (BVR).
  •  The METEOR very long-range air-to-air missile, The METEOR very long-range rocket and ram-jet powered air-to-air EM missile. Its combination with the Rafael weapon system is a real paradigm change in air to air affairs.
  •  The HAMMER (standing for Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range) modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision guided weapon series, fitted with INS/GPS or INS/GPS/IIR (imaging infra-red) guidance kits, or with the upcoming INS/GPS/laser guidance
  •  The SCALP long-range stand-off missile,
  •  The AM39 EXOCET anti-ship missile,
  •  Laser-guided bombs with different warheads from 500 lbs to 2,000 lbs
  •  Classic bombs non guided
  •  The 2500 rounds/min NEXTER 30M791 30 mm internal cannon, available on both single and two-seaters
  •  Specifics armaments selected by some clients.

“Pakistan has the multi-role F-16 in its inventory. But it is only as good as the Mirage 2000 of India. There is nothing equivalent to the Rafale in Pakistan,” retired Air Marshal M Maheswaran said. The upgraded version of the Mirage and the Sukhoi 30 can at best reach up to the category of fourth-generation fighters. The indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas can be categorised as fourth-generation in terms of avionics and technology but it is too small an aircraft to make a difference.

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India will only be the fourth country, after France, Egypt and Qatar, to fly the Rafale. China makes tall claims about their indegeneously developed Chengdu J20 fighter jet but it’s design is said to be a copy of US’ F22 Fighter Jet and when we compare the abilities of Rafale and J20, Rafale arguably has a upper hand.

What are the specifications?

The Rafale can fly at speeds of 1.8 Mach (2,222.6 km per hour) and can climb to a height of 50,000 feet. It has a range of 3,700 km, which can be increased with mid-air refuelling. The fighter jet is 15.27 metres long from nose to tail, has a wing span of 10.8 metres and a wing surface area of 45.7 square metres. It can carry 9,500 kg of bombs and munitions.

This is more than the Sukhoi 30 MK1, which can carry loads of up to 8,000 kg, say military experts. France has promised to ensure that at least 75 per cent of the Rafale fleet is combat worthy at any given point, failing which, heavy penalties will be invoked.

According to its manufacturer Dassault Aviation, the Rafale has three variants “the Air Force single-seat Rafale C, the Air Force two-seat Rafale B, and the Navy single-seat Rafale M feature maximum air frame and equipment commonality, and very similar mission capabilities.”

The induction of Rafale will certainly increase India’s air power, be it offensive, defensive or reconnaissance missions

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