RAFALE … First set of Rafale aircraft arriving in Ambala; deployment likely in Ladakh later


NEW DELHI: The first batch of five Rafale fighter jets would be inducted into the IAF at the air force base in Ambala tentatively on July 29, subject to weather conditions. The final induction ceremony will be by the second half of August, the Indian Air Force has announced. Rafale is a French word meaning “gust of wind.”

Rafale jets could eventually be deployed in the Ladakh sector on the border with China in view of escalation in military buzz there. Defense Minister Rajnath Singh had formally received the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets and flew a sortie in the MMRCA fighter jet from a French airbase in Paris in October last.

Rafale is an air-dominance aircraft manufactured by Dassault Aviation. India had used a set of Mirage-2000 aircraft made by the same company to hit the targets in Balakot a year ago. Rafale is a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) that would boost India’s air dominance, currently supported by fighter jets like the Russia made Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG 29, apart from the French Mirage-2000 and indigenously built HAL Tejas.

The multirole fighter aircraft is manufactured and designed by Dassault Aviation. The French military as also Egypt and Qatar are having the Rafale MMRCA in their fighter fleet. This is a Delta-winged, twin-engine multirole fighter aircraft. It has taken part in many wars in the last 13 years. From 2006 to 2011, French Air Force and Navy Rafale fighters were engaged in countless combat missions in Afghanistan. In 2011, French Air Force and French Navy Rafale fighters were engaged in coalition operations over Libya.

Though the idea to induct additional fighter jets in the IAF has come up in 2001, the process began in 2007. The current IAF fleet largely consists of heavy and light-weight combat aircraft. The need was felt for intermediate medium-weight fighter jets. The Defence Acquisition Council headed by then Defence Minister AK Antony, approved the ‘Request For Proposal’ to buy 126 aircraft in August 2007. The plan was for acquiring 126 aircraft, 18 of them in fly-away condition and the rest to be made in India at the Hindustan Aeronautics facility under transfer of technology.

After Rafale won the contract, the Indian side and Dassault started negotiations in 2012. By then, India scaled the requirement down to 36, from 126, that too in ready condition. The first squadrons of the Rafale were set to join the IAF fleet by 2019. Then a row erupted over the Indian agency for the deal being given to the Anil Ambani group.

The Rafale is a modern fighter jet known for its agility, speed, weapon holding capacity and attack capability. It is 15.27 metre long with a wingspan of 10.80 metres. The empty weight of Rafale ranges from 9,900 kg to 10,600 kg and the maximum take-off weight is 24,500 kg.

In terms of weapons, the Rafale can be equipped with air-to-air missiles, air-to-ground missiles, and air-to-surface missiles along with Nuclear weapons. For avionics, the Rafale is also equipped with AESA radar, SPECTRA Electronic Warfare System and IRST System.

The Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others. Agencies, IHN-NN

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