Why did India purchase Rafale when even MiG-31-like fighter jets are better options available?
Comparing the MiG-31 with Rafale is like comparing Bruce Lee with a Para Special Forces commando.
Sure Bruce Lee was much faster with his arms & legs but he couldn’t operate 14 different kinds of guns, run 40 km with a 25 kg backpack, navigate through jungles, perform special recon behind enemy lines, kill anyone just with a kitchen knife & rescue hostages.
The aircraft would comfortably fly above mach 2.5 (top speed mach 2.83) with a sole mission to intercept western strategic bombers like B-52. Hence it is designated as an interceptor aircraft.
On the other hand,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.
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.
The Rafale can only fly at Mach 1.8, but speed is not something that defines the Rafale. What defines the Rafale is its ability establish aerial supremacy, perform reconnaissance missions, ground attacks, suppress enemy air defences, anti ship strikes & even initiate nuclear deterrence. Hence it is called Multirole Combat Aircraft.
Certainly, when IAF ordered the Rafale, the organisation needed multirole aircrafts which could perform a variety of missions rather than having an solo-role interceptor which we don’t even need.
Also going by the capabilities, Rafale is a far better aircraft than the MiG-31 which is a 1970s design. It lacks maneuverability & is difficult to fly at lower altitudes. MiG-31 is a 3rd generation fighter & hence lacks fly by wire, sophisticated avionics or elaborate electronic countermeasures. Rafale on the other hand is a 4.5 generation aircraft with unarguably world’s best equipment list. It has the distinction of being the only aircraft to have locked on the F-22 Raptor.
Why no induction of Mig-31 Foxhounds as Interceptor Aircraft.
The advancement of the Indian Space Programs and the mobility provided by Drones and UAV has put forward an another global arena on which now most of the countries are focusing. US understood the reason and that’s why they have been heavily upgrading their UAV and Drone programs. They have long retired their SR-78 Black Birds and now are more focused on the Drones and UAVs. That was the reason that why Drones and UAV played a major role against the War against terrorism in Afghanistan and now against ISIS.
The second thing is that Mig-31 is more Interceptor cum Attack aircraft than its predecessor Mig-25. And add to it we already have number of other aircraft which can easily outrun the Mig-31. It is not that India didn’t evaluated but the major reason is this aircraft doesn’t fit to our need right now. So does it makes Mig-31 an impotent aircraft, no not at all. They are the possibly the best aircraft, but right now they does not fit our needs.
The warfare has evolved heavily in the coming years, so is our requirements for the air combat and air warfare.