India’s Rafale vs Pakistan’s F-16:Pakistan would need two F-16 jets to combat one Rafale jet
The first batch of five French Rafale fighter jets, out of the total 36 purchased by India in a multi-billion dollar deal, will land in Ambala on Wednesday afternoon after covering a distance of 7,000 km to join the Indian Air Force fleet. The timing of their arrival couldn’t be more critical given that India is locked in a tense standoff with China in several areas along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Added to the Chinese threat is a very real possibility of Pakistan simultaneously opening another front against India, thereby pulling India into a two-front war.
Military aviation experts say Rafale’s addition to India’s fighter fleet would significantly enhance the Air Force’s overall operational capability to counter the Chinese threat, and it would also provide effective deterrence against Pakistani aggression.
Rafale’s induction will change the technological imbalance India had in air vis-à-vis Pakistan’s US-supplied F16 aircrafts with superior radar and missile system as well as China-supplied Chengdu JF-17, which is at the centre of Pakistani Air Force’s fleet modernisation plans.
So how does Dassault-made Rafale fare against the US Mad F-16 jets used by the Pakistan’s Air Force?
The comparison becomes all the more important because IAF fighters are most likely to encounter these machines in the sky in case there is a full-blown confrontation.
Rafale is a twin-jet combat aircraft capable of carrying out a wide range of short and long-range missions, including ground and sea attacks, reconnaissance, high-accuracy strikes and nuclear strike deterrence.
The Rafale fighters boast of state-of-the-art 150-km range Meteor air-to-air missiles. It is superior to any such missile in the region. Over 300 km Scalp air-to-ground cruise missile also has two-metre precision capability. Rafale has a faster turnaround time that makes it capable of undertaking five sorties in a day while other fighter jets can undertake a maximum of three sorties in a day. All these and many other features give Rafale a distinct edge over Pakistan’s F-16. It is even said that Pakistan would need to deploy two F-16s for every Rafale jet.
Rafale can carry payloads of more than 9t on 14 hardpoints for the air force version, with 13 for the naval version. The primary BVRAAM employed by Rafale is MBDA Meteor, presently the most advanced BVRAAM at present. 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. 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.
Dassault Rafale is fitted with a RBE2-AA radar system which is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system derived from the Rafale’s RBE2 radar. It replaces the mechanically steered array antenna by electronically steering exerted by up to several thousand of transmit-receive modules which enable maximum performance and versatility as well as enhanced reliability. The radar is reported to deliver a greater detection range of 200 km, improved reliability and reduced maintenance demands over the preceding radar. Active electronic scanning makes it possible to switch radar modes quickly, thereby enabling operational functions to run simultaneously.
French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation’s CEO Eric Trappier said the Rafale was more in competition with the American F-35 fifth-generation fighter than the F-16.
Like the Sukhoi-Su30s, the Rafales too will be modified to suit Indian requirements. They’ll possess the capability for ‘cold start at high-altitude regions like Leh’ to Israeli helmet-mounted displays, advanced missile warning and synthetic aperture radars.
Being a multi-role fighter jet, the Rafale has many facets like air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence.Interoperability or the ability to fight in coalition with the allies is also another major benefit of the jet. It has supreme capability to survive in a dense threat environment thanks to stealthiness and/or to advanced electronic warfare systems.
French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation’s CEO Eric Trappier said the Rafale was more in competition with the American F-35 fifth-generation fighter because it was “a generation ahead” of the F-16. But the Rafales do cost a packet. The fighters themselves may cost around Rs 700 crore a piece. But the per unit cost zooms to Rs 1,640 crore if the overall deal is taken into account, which includes a decidedly deadly weapons package, all spares and costs for 75% fleet availability and “performance-based logistics support” for five years.
Moreover, the Rafales will be tweaked to specific Indian requirements, which range from the capability for “cold start at high-altitude regions like Leh” to Israeli helmet-mounted displays, advanced missile warning and synthetic aperture radars.
“The Meteor missile is superior to any such missile in the region. The over 300km Scalp air-to ground cruise missile also has two-metre precision capability. Rafale also has a faster turnaround time, capable of undertaking five sorties in a day. The other fighters we have can do only three sorties at the most,” a source told the ET.
Currently, the backbone of India’s offense is Russian-made Sukhoi-Su30. The Indian Air Force operates 230 Su-30s which is expected to rise to 272 by 2019. The Su-30 is regarded as the best fourth-generation fighter jet in the world and is lethal, to say the very least. One of the most significant moves to raise the Su-30’s striking capability was to make them compatible with the air-version of the BrahMos missile.
Even today, the Indian Air Force is said to have the edge over China’s air force (PLAAF) in warfare over Tibet while the Pakistani air force is said to be no match to India’s. With the Rafale and more Su-30s by 2019 and the intense modernisation of jets, India will most likely maintain this supremacy.