RAFALE JETS: All about the role of these ‘Bursts of Fire’ in India

Amidst the dreary days brought on by the seemingly endless lockdowns, good news has been in utter scarcity. One of the few redeemable — and arguably, outstanding — events to take place of late is the arrival of 5 Rafale Jets in India. This is the result of India’s first major acquisition of fighter jets, which took place in 2016. After having had no weaponry and vehicles of this scale and power for around 20 years before this deal, India prepared itself to make 36 of these 4th (to be very precise, 4.5) generation jets an essential part of the Indian Air Force, contributing significantly to the capacity of its defence sector.

So, what’s the big deal about them?

Known officially as Dassault Rafale in French — translating to ‘bursts of fire’ — and owned and operated by France’s Dassault Aviation, this ‘omni-role’ aircraft has been purchased and owned only by 4 countries so far: Egypt, Qatar, India and of course, France. Originally supposed to take off — pun intended — in 1996, the mighty Rafale had to wait for longer due to cost and budget issues that arose due to the complex situations brought forth by the Cold War at the time. It was exclusively developed for the Navy and Air Force of its motherland (eventually, of course, the scope of these jets widened).

The Rafale’s leading and most well known trait is the fact that it is powered by twin engines — two M88–2 engines which can each provide a thrust of up to 75 kN. For those not familiar with such technical terms, imagine trying to lift up an object or a person weighing 100 kgs. Roughly, 1000 N of force will have to be exerted by you to do so. Now, imagine the power of the Rafale jets, with each of one of its engines being able to handle 75,000 N! Other outstanding features include, but aren’t limited to: UHF/VHF radios with fixed frequencies for communications, AHV 17 Altimeter making it suitable of low flight penetration operations, a range of 14 missiles, and the Spectra warning system (from Thales) which incorporates 5 different types of signals and transmissions.

In layman terms, a single Rafale jet can carry out a host of operations: air defence, low height but in depth strikes, anti naval strikes, nuclear deterrence (deterring enemies from using their nuclear power by threatening them with worse retaliations), and flying at staggering speeds of up to 1.8 Mach.

What does India have to gain from this?

It is well known that one of India’s sectors that needs constant focus and growth is the defence sector. The country’s relationship with some of its more problematic neighbours — namely China and Pakistan — has been tense and strained for quite a while, with the latter especially having deeper and more bloody ties with India. Anyone equipped with a fair amount of knowledge of Indian history can make a depressingly long list of terror attacks and wars fought between them.

Despite the deal having been signed in 2016, the arrival of 5 out of the 36 jets has happened at a crucial point of time for India — right in the middle of acute hostilities and a possible war with China. China is known to possess its own natively made 5th generation fighter jets, the J-20s — however, being jets restricted to their native country alone, experts have estimated the power of Rafale jets to be almost on par with that of these higher generation J-20s. Possessing a 4.5 generation fighter jet thus makes it possible for India to have a fairly matched level of competence and power in combat with the current enemy, while easily improving its defence against Pakistan from an already high level to an even higher, almost unbeatable level.

Albeit getting equipped with an astounding and increased potential now, the Indian Air Force (IAF) — after being assured of a greater success rate in covert missions, defence missions as well as offence missions with the Rafale jets — continues to focus on expanding the horizon of its capabilities. The IAF is already in talks for securing Hammer, a medium range air to ground weapon system, to integrate with the Rafale jets.

SUMMARY

On a whole, this is a major first step in rebranding the IAF. The renewed and reinforced potential of India’s defence has resulted in reforming its image and letting the world know that this nation is now ready, and even willing, to go on the offensive. It’s willing to be ruthless in securing itself by vanquishing threats posed by any enemy — regardless of how conventionally strong or bold the enemy is known to be.

For a country which is still grouped under the category of ‘developing nations’ in spite of being the largest democracy in the world, India’s problems are plenty and appear incessantly. In addition to internal issues, external factors such as tensions with neighbouring nations pose a significant threat to the country’s security and finances, as well as its identity. Defence is a sector more important to India than an outsider can ever imagine — it always has been, since the very day it gained its independence.