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IAF inducts Rafale today, here’s how the deadly fighter jets will boost India’s air power

Rafale is considered to be one of the finest fighters in the world. With its avionics, radars & weapon systems, it is the most potent aircraft in South Asia.

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New Delhi: The five Rafale combat jets that will arrive at the Ambala Air Station Wednesday, after flying about 7,000 km from France, are the first foreign induction by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 23 years into its mind-boggling inventory of fighters.

Known as the 4.5 generation aircraft, the Rafale is considered to be one of the finest fighters in the world and is described as an ‘omnirole’ aircraft that can take up several missions on a single flight.

With its avionics, radars and weapon systems, the Rafale is the most potent aircraft in South Asia, much ahead of the F-16s that Pakistan uses or even the JF-20, the 5th generation stealth aircraft of China, which is yet to see combat.

Rafale are combat-proven having been inducted into conflicts in Afghanistan, Mali, Libya, Iraq and Syria.

While India had ordered 36 Rafale fighters in 2016, the numbers are just too small for the IAF.

Even though the IAF is supposed to come out with a Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) 2.0 for 114 fighters, work on it has been rather slow with a formal tender yet to be issued.

In between all these, talks of additional 36 Rafale fighters have been doing the rounds for long in the defence corridors.

The Rafale will also have 13 Indian specific enhancements, all of which will be integrated once the full delivery is done by 2022. These enhancements include Israeli helmet-mounted display, ability to start in very cold and high altitude areas like Leh, among others.

The first Rafale, with tail number RB 001, which was handed over in France in October last year, will be the last one to arrive in India since all tests and integration would be tried out on it.

‘RB’ on the trainer aircraft’s tail stands for the initials of Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria, the IAF chief. It is a tribute to Bhadauria for working out the Rafale deal as the force’s deputy chief earlier.

The single-seater comes with initials of BS, which stands for former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa.

Also read: All about Rafale fighters, the game-changing dream machines IAF will get tomorrow

Rafale to be 7th type of fighter in Indian inventory

The Rafale will be the 7th addition to the types of fighters that the IAF has — a feat very unique to the force in comparison to major air forces in the world.

It was in 2001 that the IAF had first moved a proposal to buy MMRCA — for which Rafales were eventually selected in 2012.

The IAF was keen on buying the Mirage 2000s and its French maker, Dassault Aviation, had offered to shift the assembly line of aircraft from France to India. It had, at the time, decided to shut down the aircraft line to pave way for the Rafale fighter jets.

But the Indian bureaucratic system delayed a formal decision in the matter and, in 2004, it was decided to float a global tender for the MMRCA rather than manufacture the Mirage 2000.

It was only in 2007 that a global Request for Proposal was issued, in which Rafale emerged as the winner in 2012.

PM Modi struck deal for 36 Rafale

Even though Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, was shortlisted as the lowest bidder after having cleared all technical requirements along with the Eurofighter Typhoon, the negotiations went nowhere.

The entire deal was stuck at pricing point as state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which was to manufacture the aircraft locally, quoted 2.57 times more man-hours to build the fighter jets. This meant the price of each aircraft was turning out to be much higher than what the French had quoted.

Also, the French refused to take guarantee for aircraft manufactured by HAL.

Another issue was that the quotes by Dassault Aviation did not carry all costs of the aircraft as against the Eurofighter, which had included the cost of even armaments.

By the time the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014, negotiations for MMRCA were stuck with no headway.

ThePrint has learnt that it was in January 2015 that India first approached the French side to know if a government-to-government deal could be worked out for a smaller number of planes that would be bought off the shelf.

Hectic talks soon took place between the two governments and Dassault Aviation.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Paris in April 2015, he announced a mega plan to buy 36 Rafale jets in fly-away conditions. It took close to 18 months for the deal to be finally sealed.

Also read: IAF to induct 5 Rafale fighters on 29 July in Ambala, their first mission could be in Ladakh

Rafale statistics

With a range of 3,700 km, Rafale comes with its 10-tonne empty weight. It is fitted with 14 hard points. Five of these hard points are capable of drop tanks and heavy ordnance. Total external load capacity is 9.5 tonnes, which means that the Rafale can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads.

The maximum take off weight is 24.5 tonnes and the fighter can carry 4.7 tonnes of internal fuel and up to 6.6 tonnes external.

With a maximum speed of nearly twice the speed of sound, the landing ground run is 450 metres without drag-chute.

Weapons on board the Rafale are real game-changers

The biggest force-enabler for the IAF is the weapon-carrying capability of the Rafale, which can be tuned for delivering nuclear weapons too.

The game-changing missile on-board the Rafale is the over Rs 20-crore worth Meteor air-to-air missile.

Manufactured by European firm MBDA, the Meteor is a long-range rocket and ram-jet powered, and its integration into the Rafale weapon system brings about a paradigm shift in air-to-air affairs since it has a range of over 150 km with a zero escape kill distance of 120 km.

It means an Indian Rafale jet will be able to shoot down an enemy aircraft, even if over 100 km away, without even crossing the Indian air space.

Neither Pakistan nor China possess a weapon as deadly as the Meteor.

Another key missile on-board the Rafale is the over Rs 40-crore worth Scalp long-range air-to-ground stand-off cruise missile.

Weighing 1,300 kg, the 5.1 metre-long Scalp can be carried in either one missile or two missiles configuration on the Rafale.

The missile has a 600-km range and is known for its precision. The Rafale will not have to cross the Indian airspace to hit a target that is about 600 km in enemy territory.

It is a strategic weapon that can be used in penetration, impact or airburst modes, and can even strike deep even in anti-access and area-denial scenarios.

In a bid to deploy the new Rafale aircraft quickly amid tensions with China, the IAF has opted for the French HAMMER air-to-ground precision-guided weapon system under emergency procurement.

The IAF had rejected this system eight years ago in favour of the Israeli Spice 2000 used in the Balakot air strikes in 2019.

HAMMER, which stands for Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range, costing nearly Rs one crore, consists of a guidance kit and a range extension kit fitted on standard bombs of different makes.

The original plan was to equip the Rafale with Spice 2000 kits, which have already been integrated into the other French aircraft in the IAF inventory — the Mirage 2000.

The Spice 2000 needs to be integrated into the Rafale aircraft. Keeping the cost of Spice, integration and testing in mind along with the time that the whole process will take, the IAF went in for the HAMMER.

The Rafale will also be equipped with the Mica air-to-air missiles. The IAF plans to further integrate the BrahMos NG missiles with the Rafale when it is finally made by the Indo-Russian joint venture.

Also read: For quick deployment of Rafale, IAF opts for HAMMER weapon system, not Israeli Spice 2000

Radars and sensors

The Indian Rafale comes with an Israeli Litening pod for sensor commonality across platforms in the Indian inventory and not the Thales TALIOS laser designator pod that France uses.

The Rafale comes with RBE2 Active Electronically Scanned Radar, which when compared to radars with conventional antennas, gives unprecedented levels of situational awareness with earlier detection and tracking of multiple targets.

Rafale also has the ‘Front Sector Optronics’ (FSO) system, which is immune to radar jamming while operating in the optronic wavelengths.

It also comes with Spectra-integrated electronic warfare suite that provides long-range detection, identification and localisation of infrared, electromagnetic and laser threats.

The system incorporates radar, laser and missile warning receivers for threat detection plus a phased array radar jammer and a decoy dispenser for threat countering, according to the MBDA, which had developed the system with defence contractor Thales.

The pricing of Rafale

A lot has been spoken and written about the pricing of the Rafale deal, struck at 7.878 billion euros.

Immense political slugfest had also ensued over the fighter jets’ pricing ahead of the 2019 general elections.

The vanilla price (basic aircraft) cost about 91 million euros each for a single-seater and about 94 million euros for a two-seater trainer aircraft, which works out to be about 3.42 billion euros. The weapons cost about 710 million euros, while Indian-specific changes are priced at approximately 1,700 million euros.

Associate supplies, including simulators, for the 36 fighter jets cost about 1,800 million euros while performance-based logistics cost about 353 million euros.

Under the performance-based logistics agreement, 75 per cent of the Rafale has to be available at all times for operation.

Also read: Rafale jets just the latest — Indo-French fighter aircraft love affair dates back to 1953


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  1. RAFFALE shows bankruptcy if Indian technological capability after 70 years what have to show buying arms form country like Israel with 1 crores population . Noise channels were telecasting Like Lord Ram is returning to Ayodhya on Pushpak … look at China JF17 could do reverse engineering .

  2. (1) Rafale represents a political compromise from conception to delivery and completely ignores the defense requirements of India, and the imperative of getting the best within the economic constraints.
    Modi Sarkar chose it for the following reasons:
    (a) The Sonia-Maunmohan-Honest Antony parivar that loots together to stay together had selected it so there was less likelihood of opposition recrimination (!)
    (b) It was chosen instead of the far superior Swedish Grippen which is a third as expensive and delivers better capabilities that the almost obsolete Rafale, because it would bring a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council (France) closer to India while walking a middle path between Russia and the US while Modi was pursuing a policy of distancing himself from Russia to bring the US closer and as part of his “Multi Appeasement Policy” (*)
    (c) Because of choosing Rafale India has had to expand the variety of weapons it uses to include NATO war weapons for which the Rafale is designed such as Hammer and Meteor and give up both its own and earlier weapons such as the Israel Spice multiplying the logistics problem and the cost of holding stock piles which “expire” at regular intervals.
    (d) In recognition of the fact that the Tejas which has been fifty years in development is a born obsolete fighter based on the obsolete Mirage 2000 air frame and a GE (US) Engine which was designed for completely different aircraft but is the only way Tejas can fly but which renders its combat performance sub optimal putting the pilots at risk. Thus promoting it to a multi national failure from being an indigenous failure
    (2) It does not have any strategic value and is NOT a game changer as is being touted by the Beta-Babu cracy and their Brass Hats.
    It is a fighter which can be risked in operations and tactics.
    It does not have the range or the payload necessary for strategic interventions. Its weapons are all operations except that it is capable of carrying Nuclear Arms which promotes it for possible tactical use restricted, however, by its rather short range when loaded with tactical weapons, to limited tactical use .
    I have been arguing for India to buy the Russian TU160 for several years now. This bomber would have had strategic value as it can carry heavy pay load nuclear and conventional bombs for very long distances at high altitude and supersonic speeds thus threatening Peking, Shanghai, the Three Gorges Dam etc and bring Strategic military pressure to bear on China.
    India has no conception of military strategy and air or sea power as it is entirely restricted, since decades, and only to the extent that the Neta-Babucracy will permit, to defending India’s land borders, while making do with whatever is thrust down the throats of the Armed Forces by India’s corrupt, incompetent Neta-Babucracy from whatever equipment is available abroad.
    (3) From the point of view of actually defending India (including carrying the battle to the enemy) with the greatest possible economy, my recommendations from a previous discourse of mine on Quora:
    The most effective aircraft for India’s defense requirements at reasonable cost would be:
    40 Squadrons of Grippen E (Sweden) for interdiction, defense and close ground support, which is the most efficient and effective, maneuverable, future proof single seater Light Combat Aircraft in the World apart from being the least expensive and lends itself to excellent strategic, tactical and operational deployment due to its flexibility, minimal ground support requirements, excellent communication and joint operational capability enabling wide dispersal and instant swarming and rapid turn around times for rearming, engine change, refueling etc as well as proven capability to deal with all kinds of climatic conditions and terrain. AND
    20 Squadrons of SU-57 (Two seater Stealth Medium Combat Aircraft: which was initially being jointly developed with India by Russia) to carry out deep penetration, reconnaissance, and heavy weapons delivery while being able to defend itself effectively when deep into enemy air space, ;AND
    1 Squadron of TU 160M (Russia) and orders for 1 Squadron of PAK DA (Russian Stealth Bomber under advanced development) for strategic bombing missions such as taking out China’s three gorges dam, Peking and Shanghai and returning home to tell the tale.
    However, India is attempting to buy weapons as an extension of Modi’s “Multi Alignment” Bribe Diplomacy from all UN Security Council Members and empty pride in non existent indigenous technological and design capability with scant regard for Military Efficiency, Effectiveness and affordability. Completely divorced from any real situation assessment as is the case with ALL Modiform laws and policies which are nothing but the last seventy years rehashed, tweaked, rebranded and relaunched. So Boeing may get a look in as part of Modi’s larger Nehruvian Gandhistry of “multi appeasement”
    Its predecessor was TU-22M [Back Fire: NATO Code] was offered to India by the erstwhile USSR almost free of cost after 1971. That desk flier ACM PC Lall didn’t appreciate its strategic value in IOR and refused the offer.

  3. The Rafale fighter is a formidable addition to the Indian Air Force. Going forward, India will be using its close defense ties with the United States, Israel, France, and other nations to enhance its own military capabilities. This is the singular focus of the BJP government which should have been India’s objective since 1947. When it comes to defense, it is never too late. The Print should be applauded for this honest and unbiased reporting.

  4. India got its first five RAFALE (4th Generation) or RAW FAIL fighter planes, so does have Qatar Air Force (36 Rafale) and Egyptian Air Force (14 Rafale). Does it make Qatar and Egyptian Air Force lethal and strong Airforces? Indian hyper exaggerated jubilation is a fake, and a drama to fool its masses. India Airforce can not even face Pakistan Airforce (27th of February/2019, Pakistan Airforce shot down Mig 21 and SKU 30 of Indian Airforce, and captured IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan. And after that incident Indian PM Surrender Modi uttered that if India would have Rafale, the outcome would be different. Well, Indians, you have RAW FAIL now, go ahead and have a surgical strike against Pakistan and China. By the way Rafale (4th Generation) were built in 1986 (Quite old) and Pakistan JF 17 (4.5th Generation) was built in 2003 with all the advancement and new technology. IAF can not compete with Pakistan, let alone IAF can go against India.

    • Lol, Rafale built in 1986 in France and JF-17 built in 2003 by pakis with all the help from chinkis??? That’s it self is the biggest advantage we hv

    • “Rough All” if combined read together sounds Rafale . India government and specially Modi Brigrade is under great compulsion to put before public the exaggerate qualities and capabilities of it as Modi ji himself all alone bargained the deal by paying three times more the price what Congress succeeded to get agreed by Company in 2009

  5. Great article, Thanks for being unbiased, I have observed the Rafale Deal and the false allegations made on it since beginning and concluded eventually that all claims were fake, Now some left (So called Liberals) are targeting Print for being Biased but the truth is that they don’t even follow Print properly, I have seen articles from last year where many left wing point of views were kept which were alleged by opposition regarding Rafale deal but eventually all their claims got fake and even French Government slammed Rahul Gandhi and Congress for their false claims, Even Rahul Gandhi misused the visit to Ex-Defence minster for political gains against Rafale and there also he got banged up. And those who are telling that online media is just covering Rafale then you must know that its the sole job of Media to report each and everything happening and Print also reports everything, I hope and pray than The Print always remains Unbiased because even I have seen many Left Supporting Articles by Print but I never complained like Librandus.

  6. The Editor, The Print

    Though, I am not writing about this article, I still thought, I should share my views.

    Sir, what it takes to report truthful information without any biases either to the opposition or to the government/ruling party. What I have observed is that you are all reporting with an agenda! Why is the newspaper business is like this in India?

    Food For Thought!

    • Update as on 1 August (from Print’s previous articles)
      1. Jets have arrived – empty.

      2. Meteor rockets purchasing process – started in March 2020 /
      PO is pending

      3. Air Force now asking France for urgent delivery of Meteors

      4. France may release 3 Meteors from stock.
      Rest has manufacturing / testing lead time of 6 months

      As on date: 3 Missiles required to deter Chinese on our borders are still in France

      Like us, Beijing, 3000 kms from our border, are waiting for further updates.

  7. It is a fantastic aircraft for IAF
    and it can give a slap to CHINA &PAKISTAN. JAI HIND.

  8. Was this publicly available information ?
    Why did it need to be published ?
    Have the lessons of ‘breaking news’ from 26/11 been forgotten ?
    Or is this good old fashioned feel good propoganda masquerading as a T20 match because there’s nothing good to report about Covid19, the economy, the floods and we all love tamasha ?

  9. Yes, the general public really needs to know all these details. Under the cover of free speech and journalism these anti-national b@stards at The Print can slip in 1 or 2 critical operational details to their paymasters across the border.

    • Blind hyper nationalist idiots like you are a burden on this nation. Other nations doesn’t have to read “The Print” to find out these information

    • Just do a simple Google search. Most of this information is available freely. And this is true for all military aircraft that are traded. Don’t be an andh bhakt.

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