IAF Rafales to soon get ‘Hammer’ air-to-ground precision-guided munitions
India’s newly-inducted Rafale omni-role fighter jets, which already have a deadly weapons package, are now all set to also get “Hammer” air-to-ground precision-guided munitions amid the ongoing military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh.
Defence ministry sources say the first consignment of the Hammer (highly agile modular munition extended range) weapons are likely to arrive in India from France next month.
With a strike range of 20 to 70-km, the Hammer munitions are designed to destroy bunkers, hardened shelters and other targets in all terrains, including the mountainous one in Ladakh. “The emergency procurement of the munitions was inked last month with France, which is expediting the deliveries,” said a source.
IAF has till now inducted eight of the 36 twin-engine Rafale jets contracted in the Rs 59,000 crore deal inked with France in September 2016. While the first five fighters had touched down at the Ambala airbase on July 29, the next three reached India on Wednesday. Three to four jets will reach India every two to three months, as per the delivery schedule.
The 4.5-generation Rafales have a combat range of 780-km to 1,650-km, without mid-air refueling, depending on the nature of their mission. The fighters are already armed with the over 300-km range `Scalp’ air-to-ground cruise missiles and the Meteor air-to-air missiles, which have a strike range of 120 to 150-km, among other weapons.
As reported by TOI earlier, the all-weather Hammer munitions are similar to the Israeli-origin “Spice” precision-guided bombs, which were used by Mirage-2000 fighters during the Balakot aerial strikes in February last year. A Rafale jet can carry up to six Hammer weapons to hit as many targets simultaneously.
IAF has currently deployed an “adequate number” of frontline Sukhoi-30MKI, Mirage-2000, MiG-29 and other fighters as well as Chinook heavy-lift and Apache attack helicopters in Ladakh as well as other stretches along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control with China to cater for any contingency.The first five Rafales have also conducted “familiarization sorties” in Ladakh.