Indian Airforce recently inducted 26 Rafale a few days ago. This french aircraft will surely boost the power of IAF. But what makes this aircraft the number one choice for the fourth largest air force- its weapon package, the Rafale is fitted with 14 hard points and five of these are capable of drop tanks (external fuel) and heavy ordnance. The Rafale comes with a package of many advance missiles that can be used in a dog fight, precision bombing, and performing the airstrikes just like Balakot.
The following are the missiles and types of equipment that can be integrated with Rafale and can boost its performance.
Lets first understand the term BVR- A beyond-visual-range missile (BVR) is an air-to-air (BVRAAM) that is capable of engaging at ranges of 300 plus KM.
Meteor is an active radar-guided missile BVR developed by MBDA. Meteor offers a multi-shot capability against long-range manoeuvring targets, jets, UAVs, and cruise missiles with a range of over 120 KM and a no-escape zone of 60 KM with the speed of 4 Mach (4x speed of sound). Powered by a solid-fueled ramjet and weighs around 200 Kg this missile is considered one of the best BVR missiles.
Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, and SAAB Gripen are the platforms that can launch this missile. Meteor missiles entered service on Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripens fighter jets in April 2016 and are used by
French Airforce and Navy, Swedish Airforce, Spanish Airforce, UK Royal Airforce, Italian Airforce, and now the Indian Airforce.
The MICA is an anti-air multi-target, all-weather, fire-and-forget short and medium-range missile system developed by MBDA. Both the air and ground-based launch system is available. the missile was commissioned in 1996 to equip the Rafale and Mirage 2000.
This 112 Kg missile can destroy a target within a range of 80 Km. The MICA can be used within visual range (WVR) and beyond visual range (BVR) with a speed of Mach 4. It is very effective in short-range conflict. There is two variant of air launch version:
- MICA RF ( active radar homing )- Active radar homing (ARH) is a missile guidance method in which a missile contains a radar transceiver and the electronics necessary for it to find and track its target autonomously. Whereas the semi-active radar homing uses the receiver only.
- MICA IR (imaging infra-red)- is a guidance system that uses the infrared (IR) light emission from a target to track and follow it. These missiles are also referred to as the “heat seeker” missile. The IR system present in the missile can act as the extra sensor to provide IR imagery.
SCALP Missile (Storm Shadow)
This is another gem manufactured by the MBDA. It is a very long-range air-to-surface cruise missile. This 1300 Kg missile can carry a warhead of about 450 Kg with a speed of 0.8 Mach and can deliver it within 550 Km range. It is a fire and forgets missile, programmed before launch. Once launched, the missile cannot be controlled or commanded to self-destroy and its target information cannot be changed. This missile uses mainly GPS and active-radar homing system for guidance.
Recent reports say that the Egyptian airforce used this missile against Turkey at Al Watiya base in Libya. Such a missile with a 500+ KM range can help India to perform Balakot Airstrikes much easily countries like the UK, France, Italy, UAE, Saudi Arab, Qatar, and Greece.
Hammer (Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range) is the Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon (AASM) developed by Safran Electronics & Defense a French company. AASM comprises a frontal guidance kit and a rear-mounted range extension kit matched to a dumb bomb. The weapon is modular because it can integrate different types of guidance units and different types of bombs.
The basic version features a 250-kilogram bomb plus Global Positioning System (GPS) guidance. Other variants add infrared homing or laser guidance to increase accuracy; there are also versions with 125-kilogram, 500-kilogram, or 1,000-kilogram bomb bodies.
It entered service in 2007 with the French Air Force and Naval Aviation, from Rafale and Mirage 2000. In 2011, AASM was given the name HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range). India recently purchased this weapon under the emergency purchase amidst the Ladhak stand-off.
Exocet AM39 Anti-Ship Missile
Exocet AM39 is the airborne version of the Exocet anti-ship missile family built by MBDA. It can be launched from strike aircraft, Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and helicopters. With the weight of 670 Kg, this missile has a range of up to 70 km, depending on the altitude and speed of the aircraft, the Exocet AM39 enables the aircraft to remain at range from enemy air defenses.
When carrying out a low altitude attack, the missile may also be launched under the target ship radar coverage. Ingress is at a very low altitude over the sea (sea-skimming).
Rafale not only comes with better weapon package but also with advanced avionics, Electronic Warfare suite, and other sensors.
SPECTRA or “Self-Protection Equipment Countering Threats to Rafale Aircraft” was jointly developed by Thales Group and MBDA for the Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft.
The full SPECTRA integrated electronic warfare suite provides long-range detection, identification, and accurate localization of infrared homing, radio frequency, and laser threats. The system incorporates a radar warning receiver, laser warning, and Missile Approach Warning for threat detection plus a phased array radar jammer and a decoy dispenser for threat countering. It also includes a dedicated management unit for data fusion and reaction decision.
Tailos Pod- This system is very important for ground missions. This system helps in precision bombing, tracking, mapping, and surveillance. Thus such a system is used for better accuracy and performance. Flight-tested for the first time in 2016, TAILOS was successfully qualified by the French defense procurement agency in 2018 for deployment by Dassault’s Rafale Omni-role aircraft. The new-generation pod has been delivered to French forces and is now fully combat-ready.
Edge Over Enemies
Rafale is a game-changer for IAF, which is 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. This aircraft is combat proved in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria which provide it an upper hand over the Chinese J-20 fighter. Indian Rafale will come with 14 India specific changes, according to the need of IAF.
The Rafale is far superior to the Chinese Su-35, J-20 and Sino-Pak J-17 aircraft. The reliability of Chinese weapons can be calculated when Pakistan used F-16 as the main strike team fleet instead of JF-17, the use of SAAB Erieye instead of Chinese SHANXI ZDK-03 AEW&C for Operation Swift Retort (attack against India after Balakot Strike) also indicates the mistrust towards Chinese equipment.
Although only two squadrons (36 Jets) are purchased which is not sufficient to fulfill the forty-two squadron strength for a two-front war still Dassault Rafale definitely pack a punch to Chinese J-20 and Su-35 aircraft.
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