Rafale v/s. SU-30MKI – The New Indian Dogfight

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a multirole combat fighter aircraft jointly developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Based on the Su-30 fighter aircraft, Su-30MKI is equipped with thrust vectoring control and canards.

While Dassault Rafale is an omnirole aircraft by design able to execute many missions like :
Air-defense / air-superiority,Anti-Access/Area Denial,Reconnaissance,Close air support,Air-to-ground precision strike / interdiction,Anti-ship attacks,Nuclear deterrence,Buddy-buddy refueling.

Rafale also has exhibited a remarkable survivability rate during the latest French Air Force and Navy operations, thanks to an optimized airframe and to a wide range of smart and discrete sensors.

Radar :-

Su-30 MKI is fitted with NIIP NO11M Bars (Panther) which is a powerful integrated PESA Radar. The N011M can function in air-to-air and air-to-land/sea mode simultaneously while being tied into a high-precision laser-inertial or GPS navigation system. It is equipped with a modern digital weapons control system as well as anti-jamming features. N011M has a 400 km search range and a maximum 200 km tracking range, and 60 km in the rear hemisphere. The radar can track 15 air targets and engage 4 simultaneously including cruise missiles and motionless helicopters. The Su-30MKI can function as a mini-AWACS as a director or command post for other aircraft. The target co-ordinates can be transferred automatically to at least four other aircraft. The radar can detect ground targets such as tanks at 40–50 km.

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.

Su-30 MKI PESA Radar is far less powerful than Rafale AESA Radar. Su-30MKI will receive an AESA Radar only after Super Sukhoi Upgrade where it will be fitted with Zhuk AESA Radar.

Electronic Warfare Suite :

Su-30MKI has electronic counter-measure systems. The RWR system is of Indian design, developed by India’s DRDO, called Tarang, (Wave in English). It has direction finding capability and is known to have a programmable threat library. Elta EL/M-8222 a self-protection jammer developed by Israel Aircraft Industries is the MKI’s standard EW pod, which the Israeli Air Force uses on its F-15s. The ELTA El/M-8222 Self Protection Pod is a power-managed jammer, air-cooled system with an ESM receiver integrated into the pod. The pod contains an antenna on the forward and aft ends, which receive the hostile RF signal and after processing deliver the appropriate response.

While Rafale has ground breaking EW Suite in form of SPECTRA system which carries out reliable long-range detection, identification and localization of threats, allowing the pilot to instantly select the most effective defensive measures based on combinations of radar jamming, infrared or radar decoying and evasive maneuvers. SPECTRA gives Rafale firing solution with 1* precision at 200 km.The outstanding capability of SPECTRA regarding airborne threat localization is one of the keys of the RAFALE’s superior situational awareness. SPECTRA now include a new generation missile warning system that offers increased detection performance against the latest threats.

In this aspect also Rafale edges out Su-30 MKI. This EW Suite helps Rafale with an excellent survivability in hostile airspace which Su-30 MKI can’t offer.

Dogfighting Skills :

Su-30 MKI remains one of the most maneuverable fighter till now with 3D Thrust Vectors and Canards which provides it extra lift and more maneuverability. Rafale has also its own distinctive advantage in dogfights as it is a delta wing fighter can take sharp turns. According to Rafale vs SU-30MKI the dogfighting rating for Rafale and Su-30 MKI are 9.3/10 and 9.7/10 respectively. In this aspect I will give an edge to Su-30 MKI though Rafale can run circles around a Flanker better enough.

Stealth :

The minimal Radar Cross Section of Rafale, according to Dassault engineer (1/10~1/20 of Mirage-2000’s frontal RCS), should be 0.05 to 0.1 m2 class.

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.

275% 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.Su-30 MKI due to its larger size lets out a huge RCS of 10 meter square ( unarmed ) and 20 meter square ( armed ). Su-30 MKI also does not make use of RAM or RCS Reduction measures as Rafale.

So in a BVR Combat a Rafale will have an advantage of first look-first shot as it will detect a Su-30 MKI first before a Su-30 MKI will detect it.

Propulsion :

The Rafale is fitted with two Snecma M88 engines, each capable of providing up to 50 kN (11,250 lbf) of dry thrust and 75 kN (16,900 lbf) with afterburners. The engines feature several advances, including technology to reduce radar and IR signatures. The M88 enables the Rafale to supercruise while carrying four missiles and one drop tank.

AL-31FP engines provide a greater thrust than Rafale which is not a sign of inferiority but because Su-30 MKI is a Heavy Combat Aircraft rather than Rafale which is a medium combat aircraft. The Su-30MKI’s rate of climb (300 m/s) is inferior to that of the Rafale (305 m/sec) which gives Rafale an edge over Su-30.


Beyond Visual Range Combat :

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. It is designed to meet the most stringent of requirements and is capable of operating in the most severe of clutter and countermeasure environments.The Meteor is installed with an active radar target seeker, offering high reliability in detection, tracking and classification of targets.

Su-30 MKI is equipped with R-77 BVRAAM which is a Russian medium range, active radar homing air-to-air missile system. The R-77 has the ability to engage multiple airborne threats simultaneously thanks to its fire and forget capability.

Su-30 MKI will aslo be fitted with Astra BVRAAM which is designed to be capable of engaging targets at varying range and altitudes allowing for engagement of both short-range targets (up to 20 km) and long-range targets (up to 80 km).

It uses smokeless propulsion system to evade enemy radars and has the capacity to engage in multi-target scenario. Astra can reach up to 110 km when fired from an altitude of 15 km, 44 km when launched from an altitude of 8 km and 21 km when fired from sea level. A smokeless

The highly agile, accurate and reliable missile features high single-shot kill probability (SSKP) and is capable of operating under all weather conditions. It also has the capacity to engage in multi-target scenario.

In BVR Combat aspect due to Meteor we can assume that Rafale can edge out Su-30 MKI although Su-30 MKI has more diverse BVRAAM in form of R-77 and Astra as well as K-100. According to Rafale vs SU-30MKI Rafale has 85% rating in BVR Tech. while Su-30 MKI has 87% rating.

Su-30 MKI can employ many varieties of anti-ship missiles like3 × Kh-59MK,4 × Kh-356 × Kh-31A
While Rafale on other hand has only MBDA AM 39-Exocet anti-ship missile. Su-30 MKI also employs varieties of Anti-Radiation Missiles like KH-31P and DRDO Anti-Radiation Missile.

So in my view Rafale is better than Su-30 MKI whereas Su-30 MKI edges Rafale in some factors like dogfighting and WVR Combat. The Rafale buy will give the Indians access to some fairly advanced French technology. They already license-build a lot of Russian stuff and are also working with Russia on the PAK-FA. Plus, they won’t be as dependent on Russia for all their military needs. Procuring the Rafale could give the Indians more know-how which they could use to develop their domestic aircraft industry. Seeing the excellent record of Mirage 2000 in IAF Service I can assume that Rafale coupled with Su-30 MKIs and India’s own Tejas can put up IAF Supremacy for upto 2045 till 5th generation fighters come into scene.




This article is  taken from QURA Written Harsh Bardhan


You may also like...