How Dassault Rafale will beef up the strength of Indian Air Force ?

The Dassault Rafale is a French Twin-Engine,Canard Delta wing,Mulitrole fighter aircraft designed and built by Dassault Aviation for wide range of short and long-range missions, including ground and sea attacks, reconnaissance, high-accuracy strikes and nuclear strike deterrence.

India signed a $8.7-billion deal with France last year for 36 Rafale warplanes for the Indian Air Force which will be delivered by 2019. What makes Rafale a real beast of Indian Air Force ?

Indian Rafale will be a modified version of the F3R standard that is currently on track towards qualification and validation in 2018 by the French government and military. The F3R Rafale is centered around integration of the MBDA Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, the Thales TALIOS laser designator pod and the laser homing version of Sagem’s AASM Hammer air-to-surface munition. The F3R also includes attendant software upgrades to on-board sensors and avionics.

India’s Rafale will deploy the in-development BrahMos NG missile in either a twin or single weapon load-out when the system is ready from 2021. The MBDA Scalp and BrahMos will provide planners with unique subsonic/supersonic stand-off attack options available to no other air force in the world. The Rafale deal also includes assurances for coding extensions to other in-development Indian weapon systems, including the Astra BVRAAM.

The Indian Rafale will sport the fully internal SPECTRA electronic warfare system, billed as the ‘cornerstone of the Rafale’s outstanding survivability against the latest airborne and ground threats’. The Spectra stands to be a major leg up for the Indian Air Force. Showcasing the system and its capabilities has been easy — the system has had a daily torture test over the years in hostile airspace over Libya, Iraq and Syria. Several pilots from the French Air Force and Navy that Livefist interviewed praised the Front Sector Optronics (FSO) visual and infrared sensor that comes with the Indian Rafale. The IAF’s current rules of engagement place a premium on visual contact, making the FSO a valuable addition to the combat system it will operate. Not counting the Israeli Elta ELM-2052 combat radar that’s under test on India’s Jaguars, the Thales RBE 2 AESA radar on the Rafale will be the IAF’s first default active electronically scanned array combat radar on a frontline Indian combat aircraft.

The Rafale has already proven itself in three different wars. In Afghanistan, it performed numerous ground strikes against the Taleban, sometimes with GBU-12 Paveway II bombs used against Taleban caves. In Libya, it successfully evaded Qaddafi’s woefully obsolete 1960s-vintage Soviet air defense systems and led the fight against his regime. Most recently, in Mali, the Rafale flew long distances to perform strikes against Islamic insurgents.

Thus, the Rafale is a veteran of three wars despite entering service only a little more than a decade ago, a stark distinction to all of its competitors except the Super Hornet, none of which have seen any combat whatsoever, even against obsolete Soviet air defense systems or insurgents unable to contest control of the air.

This diversity of missiles and seekers will allow a Rafale pilot to saturate his opponent in combat with a salvo of 3 different missiles at once (and remember, the Rafale can carry 13-14 missiles in total). This means his opponent, forced to duck one of the missiles, would be detected by another missile’s seeker, and thus be shot down.

Rafale makes extensive use of radar-absorbent material (RAM) in the form of paints and other materials. RAM forms a saw-toothed pattern on the wing and canard trailing edges, for instance. The aircraft is designed to, so that its untreated radar signature is concentrated in a few strong “spikes,” which are then suppressed by the selective use of RAM.

75% of Rafale surface structure and 30% of its mass are made of composites. Besides, the high amount of composites and RAM materials, ducted air intakes, Rafale also has a sawtooth design feature all over the airframe and even in the air intakes. These sawtooth are made of RAM materials and meant to scatter and absorb radar waves. IRST surface of rafale is covered in gold shield which reflects very less radar energy and thus has stealth. The internals of the cockpit are RCS shaped as well as the canopy containing gold and RAM coat on the mounts which reflects very less radar reflection.

The Rafale is equipped with an RBE2 passive electronically scanned radar developed by Thales, which has look-down and shoot-down capabilities and it can track up to eight targets simultaneously and provides threat identfications and prioritisation.

Active electronic scanning makes it possible to switch radar modes quickly, thereby enabling operational functions to run simultaneously.

Furthermore, the Rafale has the biggest gun on the market (ex aequo with Sukhoi aircraft): a hefty 30mm GIAT gun firing incendiary rounds. This makes the Rafale an excellent choice for both air to air and air to ground combat, as its 30mm rounds would provide excellent support for troops on the ground. 30mm is the caliber of the guns of most APCs and IFVs.

For air to ground combat, the Rafale can carry the GBU-12 and GBU-49 Paveway II, the GBU-24 Paveway III, the Sagem AASM bomb (with a range of 55 meters and a CEP of less than 1 meter, designed to attack both static and mobile targets), the MBDA Apache and Scalp-EG cruise missiles (designed for attacking targets such as the runways of heavily defended airfields from a distance outside the range of their air defense systems), the Exocet AM39 anti-ship transonic cruise missile, and the forementioned ASMP and ASMP-A stealthy nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

In short, the Rafale can carry a wide range of weapons, and perform air to air, air to ground, and air to sea combat well.

The Rafale’s two principal sensors are the Thales RBE2 ESA radar and the Thales/SAGEM OSF (Optronique Spherique Frontal) infrared search and tracking system (IRST system).


The Dassault Rafale is a relatively small, light airplane. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that its wing loading ratio (the ratio of its weight compared to its wingspace) is just 306 kg/sq m, the second lowest ratio on the market after the JAS-39 Gripen. Its combat radius is also impressive – 1,852 kilometers, again, the second-best in the market trailing only the F-15C/D. The Rafale also has an excellent rate of climb – 304 m/s, i.e. 60,000 ft/min. This means the plane can climb to its service ceiling (55,000 ft) in a minute.

The plane’s two SNECMA MM-2 turbofan engines provide a dry thrust of 50.4 kN each, or 75.62 kN (17,000 lbf) each on afterburner. This gives the plane a very good thrust/weight ratio of 0.988:1 in full combat load – unheard of for a modern fighter, and fully competitive even with 5th generation American, Russian, and Chinese fighters.

The one thing that somewhat lets the Rafale down – other than its 55,000 ft ceiling – is its speed of Mach 1.8, compared to Mach 2 or more for most other fighters. And by these factors, the Rafale is the best, with a superlative wingloading ratio, excellent pilot visibility in all direction, superlative radar and IR sensors, a 30 mm gun (the biggest fighter gun caliber in the market), and a load of up to 14 (but usually 10-12) MICA infrared- and electromagnetically-guided missiles with a range of up to 80 kms.

IR-guided WVR missiles typically have a Probability of Kill of 74%, according to research by Air Power Australia. Therefore, if a Rafale fighter begins a mission armed with 2 Meteor and 12 MICA missiles, then, even if its 2 Meteors hit nothing, its 12 MICA missiles will kill 8 enemy aircraft.

Meteor is the next generation of Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) system designed to revolutionize air-to-air combat in the 21st Century. The weapon brings together six nations with a common need to defeat the threats of today as well as the future emerging ones developed by MBDA. Guided by an advanced active radar seeker, Meteor provides all weather capability to engage a wide variety of targets from agile fast jets to small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and cruise missiles.

Designed from the onset as a multirole combat aircraft with low observable characteristics, the Rafale, by virtue of the total electronic data fusion process from sensors which characterises the unique innards of the French jetplane, added to its outstanding weapons array, has proven versatile and better in everything than other 4.5 gen fighters. TheRAFALE participates in permanent “Quick Reaction Alert” (QRA) / air-defense / air sovereignty missions, power projection and deployments for external missions, deep strike missions, air support for ground forces, reconnaissance missions, pilot training sorties and nuclear deterrence duties.





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