As the current stand-off between India and China continues along the Line of Actual (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Air Force is scheduled to receive at least four Rafale fighter jets by the end of this month. India has signed an agreement to buy 36 Rafale jets under flyaway condition. The aircraft will be based out of Air force Station Ambala, Haryana. Ever since the deal was signed, Rafale has become the talk of the town. Here's why Rafale is being seen as the game-changer for the IAF in the future air operations.
Rafale is a twin-engine fighter with single- and double-crew configurations can operate at Mach 1.1 (more than the speed of sound) at low altitude and reach up to Mach 1.8 at higher altitudes. The warplane has an impressive range of more than 3,700km with a combat radius of 1,850km and a rate of climb, which is critical in dogfights, of 340 metres per second with a service ceiling of 15,285 metres.
The most important feature that is giving sleepless nights to the PLA Airforce is the impressive weaponry of Rafale. India will be integrating European-made SCALP and Meteor long-range beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missile into Rafale so that enemy aircraft can be stopped long before they get close enough to track the Indian fighter.
Meteor has an effective range of 150km and with three guidance methods making it deadly and practically no escape zone, which is the distance at which enemy aircraft has a chance of successful evasive action. Moreover, Rafale aircraft will also have the long-range SCALP cruise missile which can hit ground targets up to 1,000km away, which would cover all the airstrips in the Tibet region.
One of the major reasons Su-30 MKI could not intercept the incoming F-16 of PAF during the skirmish along the Line of Control on February 27 in 2019 was the absence of a long-range missile. Now with SCALP and Meteor in its kitty, IAF is looking for regional superiority.
Further, the 36 Rafale jets coming at a price of about $8.7 billion will be able to take off from high-altitude bases like Leh and will be of critical support to Kargil-like situations.