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Rafales land in Ambala: How these game-changer jets will raise the air force of India

India’s first ever Rafale fighters- 3 single seaters and 2 double seaters eventually broke into the sky on 29 July, Wednesday after a 7,000 kilometer flight from France with an overnight pit stop in UAE and midair refill.
|| Varsha Sahoo

Called by the Indian Air Force as “game-changers”, the pilots have touched down in Ambala in the middle of the current strategic conflict with China that could strangle the season, or even beyond.

Greeting and welcoming the jets in India, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said the Rafale aircraft’s touchdown marked the advent of a new chapter in our military history. Singh tweeted, “These aircrafts have very good flying performance and its weapons, radar and other sensors and Electronic Warfare capability are among the best in the whole world. Its arrival in India would make the Indian Air Force far stronger in deterring any threat that could be posed to our region.”

Although the jets will take time to incorporate adequately into the war fighting process, they will definitely be a force to be dealt with when fully operational. When ready, Pakistani F-16 and JF-17 as well as the Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighters will be able to outshoot and outrun the Rafales.

In addition, reports have said that either China or Pakistan cannot match Rafales’ air-to-air and air-to-ground strike capability, and that the aircraft would give India an advantage over all the rivals. With a mission-dependent battle range of 780km to 1,650 km, the jets come fitted with a lethal weapons suite, sophisticated avionics, radars, and electronic warfare capabilities to deter opponents from jamming and to guarantee superior survival in hostile contested airspace.

The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Air Command, Air Marshal B. Suresh and the Air Officer Commanding Air Force Station Ambala along with the pilots of the first Rafale aircraft that had arrived at Air Force Station Ambala, in Haryana on July 29, 2020.(Image PIB)

Every Rafale will hold two fire-and-forget Scalp cruise missiles well over 300 km away to strike protected high-value targets. The Rafales are armed too, and probably the best air fighting duels in the world, with “a greater no escape zone” for enemy fighters than any equivalent BVR weapon. There are actually no warheads of this type in Pakistan and China in their battle inventories.

The jets will have 13 India-specific enhancements or updates that will become fully operational in 2022 after being “certified applications.” The enhancements vary from radar improvements, Israeli helmet-mounted displays and low-band jammers to towed decoy devices, 10-hour flight data storage and “cold launch” engine capability from high-altitude regions such as Ladakh.

India is also preparing to outfit its new Rafale jets with air-to-ground precision guided bombs “hammer”, in order to take advantage of China alongside the LAC. The 20 to 70km range hammers are designed to smash bunkers, fortified shelters and other targets in all terrains including mountainous ones in eastern Ladakh. A Rafale can hold up to six Hammers at the same time to hot as many targets.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former IAF chief B S Dhanoa have said that the result of last year’s dogfight with Pakistan would have been different had Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, abducted and eventually released by the neighboring government, flew a Rafale.

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