Updated: Oct 31, 2022
SIGNIFICANCE AND NEED
Major military decisions and foreign defence deals by India happen by keeping two things in mind. One is having independent decision-making and various options in conflict, and the second is the two-front war threat from China-Pakistan. Rafale is a defence deal keeping in mind both the decision-making room and the two-front war. This has made Rafale one of the biggest and the top foreign defence deals and the S400 Triumph system. Rafale is not only famous because of the controversy surrounding it but because it deserves the attention that a powerful weapon in one’s arsenal should get. India’s Rafale deal brought it again in the power-balance gameplay of the region and has led to the China-Pakistan alliance gear up for the power-parity shift in the area.
Rafale gives India an added weight to keep China-Pakistan in check and balance the scale of power dynamics in the region in the case of hard power.
Rafale is the deal of the decade. It signifies and closes the long going thrust for a new multirole fighter aircraft with advanced and modern capabilities that the Indian Air Force wanted. The AirForce’s call for a new aircraft was justified by the large retiring and irrelevant fighter jets that it had in its arsenal. The MiG 21, of which the Indian Airforce has a large squadron, is going to retire, and in the current technological and warfare field, it is obsolete. Replacing the MiGs with advanced and future-ready fighter jets remained IAF’s primary aim, and that advancement is what Rafale signifies.
All in all, the Rafale deal was the need of the hour and was the best that India could get. Rafale has satisfied India’s two-front worry, the long-awaited replacement for the MiGs and keeping India’s defence market options open in case of a conflict. In comparison, the Americans could have rejected India, much required spare parts or equipment for fighter jets during a conflict if procured from them as we signed the S400 deal with the Russians, which the Americans don’t like and have threatened CAATSA on India. Diversifying defence equipment and hardware give India room to keep itself safe from future conflict-based restrictions. Rafale’s add to India’s Air Force along with the Sukhoi SU-30 MKI and Dassault Mirage 2000.
Rafale is a twin-jet combat aircraft capable of a wide range of short-long range missions, including ground, sea attack and air defence, superiority, reconnaissance, and high accuracy or nuclear strike deterrence. Rafale has been developed for the French Airforce and Navy by Dassault Aviation. 61 aircraft were ordered. India ordered the Rafale, and the first batch was finally delivered in 2020, and all will be delivered in 2022, taking India’s squadron strength to 32. The 4.5 Generation Rafale has a top speed of 1.8 Mach. Its fuel capacity is 4.7 tonnes (internal) and 6.7 tonnes (external), with a ferry range of 3700kms. Its Landing ground run is 450 m (1,500 ft), and the Service ceiling is 50,000 ft. Rafale has combat experience from Afghanistan, Libya and Mali and missions in the Central African Republic, Iraq, and Syria. Compared to its new rival, J20 Chengdu, which the Indians had in mind before selecting the Rafale, it can carry more fuel and weapons. Each aircraft has 14 storage stations for weapons. The jets are equipped with air-to-air Meteor missiles with a beyond visual range (BVR) of more than 100 km. India is getting 28 single-seat and 8 double-seat Rafales.
In comparison to Pakistan’s F16s, Rafale has more range and can outperform it. Rafale also comes with SCALP, the air-to-ground cruise missile with a range of over 300km. It is a long-range deep strike missile. MICA, an air-to-air missile on Rafale, is both close-quarter dogfights and for BVR. India has also asked for HAMMER (Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range) air-to-ground precision-guided missile used for hard bunker type targets. Rafale also has a very powerful engine and operational capability in many regions and has been area tested. Rafale is equipped with fixed-frequency radio for communications and a multifunction information distribution system (MIDS) terminal, which provides safe, secure and high-data-rate tactical data exchange crucial for the battlefield.
Rafale is equipped with laser designation pods for laser guidance, and its electronic warfare system is the SPECTRA from Thales. This system has a radar warning system, missile warning, detection and jammers. The Aircraft carrier can use the Rafale naval version., This naval version deal between India and France is yet to be brought in course. Rafale can carry a payload of over 9 to 14tonnes. Rafale’s cockpit comes with hands in throttle and stick control (HOTAS). The cockpit is equipped with advanced pieces of equipment which provides control, mission data and firing cues. All in all, Rafale ticks all the points in the Indian Airforce’s wishlist. With Rafale’s missiles having advanced capabilities, range and precision, the Indian Airforce doesn’t need to cross the airspace or borders of India to attack beyond the enemy lines. This gives Indian Airforce and added PowerPoint and strategic weight in its fin.
RAFALE THE SAVIOUR
India has some urgent needs to fulfil, like replacing the retiring squadrons and completing the gap between the requirement of 42 squadrons compared to the present rate. India’s current saviour came in the shape of the Rafale. Rafale has saved India from the bleak power balance in the region. Modernising and replacing the old fighter jets immediately is in India’s interest. In total, the Rafales, along with "associated equipment, weapons, India specific enhancements, maintenance support and services", cost India 58,000 crore rupees but the inclusions and the need of the hour along with technical capabilities that it brings make it worth it.
Rafale has more outstanding capabilities than the J20 Chengdu and the F16s, both of which India’s enemy nations have China and Pakistan, respectively. Rafale can take off from high altitude and cold weather bases of Leh, which gives the Indian Airforce a strategic advantage. This puts India in a much more significant position in terms of power balancing in the region. Still, the saviour Rafale cannot save India’s power numbers and parity in the region alone, where it faces two-front war theatre. More modern Squadrons of Rafale and other powerful fighter jets to fulfil the gap of 42 squadrons to establish power check and balance along with superiority in the region is required. India’s Rafale may be the saviour for the current times but needs more numbers and fighters in the arsenal to establish the safety shield and a powerful attacking point for India. Taking into context the geopolitics and power dynamics of the region, the need is urgent.
POINT BY POINT EXPLAINER
Dassault Aviation France manufactures Rafale
It is a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA)
It performs a wide range of operations from Aerial reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes to air-to-ground attacks and air supremacy
Major missiles operational with Rafale are HAMMER, METERO, SCALP and MICA
It has top-notch detection and warning capabilities along with the integration of Israeli made Helmet Mounted Display (HMD)
BY HARSH SURI
CO-FOUNDER THE GEOSTRATA