Rafale: How will it transform Indian Air Force’s combat potential?
History was created at the Ambala Air Base of the India Air Force (IAF) on July 29 afternoon as the much-awaited French-made Rafale fighters reached the Indian soil keeping aside all speculations, discussions and controversies relating to the entire issue over the years.
This is the first imported fighter to be inducted into Service since the Sukhoi-30s from Russia in the late 90s.
Almost 46 months after the €7.87 bn contract was signed, the first five of 36 Rafale fighter jets and the crew members were welcomed by IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) RKS Bhadauria.
Much have been discussed about the capabilities and supremacy of the fighter jets over the traditional and strategic enemies of the country, Group Captain MJA Vinod, an IAF veteran, writes about the capabilities of Rafale and other issues, especially on “How Rafale will transform Indian Air Force’s combat potential” for the EastMojo followers.
Air-to-air combat potential of Rafale
Rafale is equipped with AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar and frontal infra-red search and track (IRST) sensor.
What is an AESA in a nutshell?
It is nothing but a non-moving radar whose beams are electronically steered through small modules called TR (Transmit Receive) modules. Since non rotating equipment, its failure rate is very low. Since using TR modules it can vary parameters in a manner that its performance in dynamic situations will be far better. IRST is a passive system that looks for hot objects both on ground and in air, currently there is no counter measure to IRST.
Using AESA Radar and IRST, Rafale employs two potent missiles to shoot down enemies very far, namely, MICA & METEOR missiles. They have very high ranges of nearly 80+ km for MICA and 100+ km for Meteor. To put things into perspective, from Pathankot to Gujranwala it is less than 100 km.
Air-to-ground combat potential
Rafale carries varied air-to-ground munitions. SCALP EG missile with Multispectral sensor to guide itself to the target accurately and with a range of 560 km. To put things into perspective, Pathankot to Islamabad or Sargodha is only 280 km.
It will carry HAMMER missiles, six of them which have a range of 50-80 kms and can target bunkers and dig in position, six at a time and all independently targeting different targets.
It can carry pave way Laser Guided Bombs, MK82/84 1000/2000 lbs unguided bombs and rockets.
It will carry Spice 2000 weapon famous for bombing Balakot to smithereens which will be an engagement as part of India Specific modifications.
Electronic warfare suite
Rafale has inbuilt jammers to jam enemy’s airborne and surface based sensors. It has a potent Radar Warning Receiver and Countermeasure dispensing system which automatically dispenses counter measures to counter enemy’s radar and weapons.
It also warns pilots of threat from enemy radar and missiles.
Though not a pure stealth aircraft, Rafale has exceptional stealth features like composite structures, blended design, Radar absorbent material and automatic emission control to control own sensors. Attack on Al-Watiya air base with spectra coordination is case in point.
Naysayers need to understand these capabilities that are rolled in one fighter can engage the enemy effectively.
To put things in perspective, when the Kargil war happened India had only three Mirage 2000 aeroplanes and only 12 in air to ground role. These aeroplanes engaged 80% of the targets and gave India Tiger Hill, Muntho Dhalo on a platter.
Yes! Rafale is a game-changing fighter which will change the way we fight.
(Group Captain MJA Vinod was in charge of operations for Northeast during his tenure as CATSPAW - Command Air Tasking And Strike Planning for Aerial Warfare - in Shillong, Meghalaya. He was also conferred with Vishisht Sewa Medal by the President of India for establishing CATSPAW. He served four tenures in Northeast from Sikkim sector to the Eastern most base. He is an MPhil and a PhD scholar in international relations and strategic studies. Views expressed are personal)