India received the first of the 36 Rafale fighter jets at the Dassault Aviation facility in Mérignac. It was officially handed over to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday. This has given a big boost to India’s defence capability. Currently, India has fighter jets such as Sukhoi Su-30MKI, MiG 29, Mirage-2000 and the indigenously built Tejas. However, the Rafale will be the most capable fighter aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The Rafale is fitted with 14 hard points. Its total external load capacity is more than 9 tonnes. Hence, it can lift the equivalent of its own empty weight in payloads. Its loitering capacity is 1.5 times that of the Sukhoi. The range is 780 to 1055 km as against 400-550 km of a Sukhoi jet. Similarly, the Rafale jet can engage in 5 sorties per 24 hours against 3 by the Sukhoi. Also, Rafale maintenance time per flight hour is 2.25 hours against 6-8 hrs for other fighters. Moreover, the Rafale is powered by two SNECMA M88 engines, which helps it attain a range of more than 3,700 km.
It also has a Martin-Baker Mark 16F ‘zero-zero’ ejection seat, capable of operating at zero speed and altitude. Having a top speed of 2223 km, it is equipped with laser-guided bombs weighing 900 kg. 2500 rounds per minute can be fired from its internal cannon. Furthermore, the presence of MICA beyond visual range missile, Hammer air-to-ground missile, Meteor, and the Scalp missiles give the IAF the ability to strike enemy targets 600 km away without having to cross the Indian air space. As the country only had third and fourth generation fighter jets till now, the newly inducted Rafale considered as a 4.5 generation aircraft will now lead the pack.
According to some experts, Pakistan would not have dared to launch a counter-attack after the Balakot airstrikes had India possessed the Rafale jet. This is because of its superior attack and beyond visual range capability. While the dimensions of the Rafale and Pakistan’s Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon jet are similar, the latter is only a fourth-generation aircraft. Similarly, the Rafale aircraft can carry a weight of 24.5 tonnes as against 21.7 tonnes by the F-16. This implies that the Rafale can load more weapons. Also, the F-16 jets do not have the semi-stealth technology and the nuclear capability which the Rafale aircraft have. Thus, combined with the Sukhoi, the IAF will be in a comfortable position to handle the F-16s.