First five Rafales to touch down in India on July 27, amid rising tensions with China - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 21 July 2020

First five Rafales to touch down in India on July 27, amid rising tensions with China

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st July 20

In a boost to the morale of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which finds itself preparing for the possibility of hostilities with China, its first five Rafale fighter aircraft will land on Indian soil next Monday (July 27).

The aircraft will form the nucleus of the IAF’s first Rafale squadron, Number 17 Squadron, which calls itself the “Golden Arrows”. They will be based in Ambala. 

The five Rafales will take off from Istres, France and will be flown to India by IAF pilots, with mid-air refuelling en route from an accompanying French Air Force tanker aircraft. They will make just one stopover – at the United Arab Emirates’ Al Dhafra air force base near Abu Dhabi, according to Livefist, an authoritative defence blog.

The IAF stated on Monday that the arrival of the first Rafales will be low-key and without ceremony or media coverage. A more public inauguration will take place at the end of August.

In September 2016, the IAF had signed a Euro 7.8 billion contract with French aerospace firm Dassault for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, which were to commence delivery in September 2019. As it turns out, the delivery is commencing nine months late. With the first squadron likely to take about three months to become operationally ready, Rafales could begin combat operations by September-October.

“IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now. Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalization of the aircraft at the earliest,” stated the IAF.

With the IAF pressing Dassault to deliver fighters quickly to make up for lost time, there are expectations that one-to-two more Rafales would join the fleet every month. At that rate, both Rafale squadrons could be delivered and operational by late 2022.

Those could potentially be followed by more Rafales. In November, the Supreme Court dismissed a bunch of petitions against the Rafale contract, clearing the decks for Dassault to compete with other global vendors in another on-going Indian procurement for 114 medium fighters.

The weapons that give the Rafale its combat edge over any other in-service fighter in the region have already been delivered to India, ahead of the fighters.

The most potent of these weapons in air-to-air combat (fighter-versus-fighter) is the Meteor beyond visual range (BVR), air-to-air missile. With a range that is estimated to be well above 120 kilometres, the Meteor outranges any other missile in aerial combat and allows a Rafale pilot to strike enemy aircraft from beyond the range of the enemy’s missiles. 

According to MBDA, the French firm that has developed the Meteor, it is powered by a rocket-ramjet motor that gives it greater engine power and a significantly longer range than any other BVR missile. The ability to fly faster, for longer distances and manoeuvre more sharply than other air-to-air missiles give the Meteor a “no-escape zone” (the arc in which the target aircraft cannot evade the missile) many times greater than its competitors.

The IAF’s Rafales will also carry the shorter-range MICA air-to-air missile, which is separately being fitted onto the IAF’s Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft fleet as part of its on-going upgrade. 

MBDA claims the MICA is the world’s only air-to-air missile that features two interoperable seekers (active radar and imaging infrared), allowing the missile to be used in close-in, fighter-to-fighter dogfights as well as in the BVR role. 

One of the MICA’s key attributes is its ability, while in the BVR mode, to fly much of the distance to the enemy aircraft in passive mode – i.e. without radiating radar waves, which alert the adversary. When it approaches the target, the seeker starts radiating only in the final stages when the target has little time to take evasive manoeuvres or to deploy effective countermeasures. 

For striking ground targets, the IAF Rafales will carry the French SCALP deep-strike cruise missile. This stealthy weapon has the ability to strike hardened and protected targets deep inside hostile territory from stand-off ranges, i.e. without the need for the Rafale to enter hostile airspace, which could be heavily defended with air defence missiles. The SCALP has the capability to create havoc at the target end, due to its powerful tandem warhead and multiple detonation modes.


  1. "Another on going procurement of 114 aircraft".So you are one of those who still believe in another stupid "jet jamboree" a la MMRCA.Surely you know it will just be a waste of time while our adversaries are getting stronger every moment.

  2. I really liked this article because it explains how and why these missiles give an edge over other missiles.

  3. Why we give power to such peoples who don't even care about us.
    Things become CRUEL when such people make mistake.

  4. Scylla & Charybdis21 July 2020 at 17:55

    Is this all mere sabre rattling ?

    The winter starts setting in by October - November and the dispensation would like to look good before the Bihar Assembly Elections in September ?

    The Chinese are obviously aware of the compulsions of this dispensation.

    The balance of trade is tilted in favour of China.

    China is the Numero one country from which India imports goods & services.

    China is the third largest market ( Hongkong included) to which we export, behind UAE & Saudi Arabia at second position and the USA in the first position.

    The citizenry is wise.
    The citizenry is watching.

    National security concerns almost every citizen.

    China has had the gall to violate the territorial integrity of the Republic of India,that is Bharat.

    Should that not invite an appropriate response /RIPOSTE from India ?

  5. Sir , you called Rafael a scandel.

  6. They are still a bargain, compare to Tejas...

  7. Rafales are the 'gamechanger'! Thats why the IAF's decision to go with only 36 planes instead of 126 originally planned will rankle. Bluntly put, notwithstanding the bravery and motivation of our Armed Forces, we have not planned at all for such a conflict, going by the rash of desperate buying of military equipment when the wolves are already at our door!

  8. 5? The PLAAF must be ROTFL. Even 200 would not be enough. Have you seen their inventory? Thousands and thousands of fighters.

    I first read about MRCA in 2007. It is 2020.

    There is no justification for this delay except that there are people internally out to sabotage the country. India is failing and falling.

    Tejas IOC was intially 2008, FOC 2010. It is 2020 and now we have FOC.

    Indians are lazy. They will be consumed by other countries.

  9. Myself Albert Pinto from Goa.

    5 Rafale? 2 naya Tejas? ok haan saat fighter ke saath kya fight karega? upar se maintenance. Garage kidhar hai?

    China ka slave banega like Portuguese apne ko slave banaya.

    Jao Made in China TV kharido...Ignore Onida, buy Realme, Xiaomi...apna public total fools.

  10. Japan is keen to sell used F-15 as it transitions to F-35s. The US has offered F-15s belatedly to India. Doing both -buying used plus new- solves the quantity and quality problem in one scoop. While inducting a new and expensive type. Now the Mig-21 is on its way out so that reduces the type count by 1 again. Also, the 23,25,27 migs are history. There are so many defence analysts, strategic thinkers out there and not one has mentioned this option. The Japanese fighters are in excellent condition and I can't imagine why the US wouldn't say "Yes". Foot in the door for them. The Eagle is still among the top 3 Air superiority platforms in the world. There is also the Strike Eagle so those could be built new.

    Only 1 downside - it's an expensive platform about 40k per hour.

  11. I loved your Articles I read 4-5 of your article on defence and they are very good explained

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