Indian Air Force Rafale

The modern battlefield demands aircraft that can excel in both air-to-ground and air-to-sea operations while maintaining air superiority. In this context, the Indian Air Force Rafale aircraft emerges as an unparalleled game changer and paramount asset. With an increasing number of nations embracing the capability approach, the procurement of a total of 36 Rafale aircraft represents the ideal response. With its ‘Omnirole’ capabilities, the Rafale embodies unrivalled versatility and effectiveness, making it an indispensable force in the field.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

As of July 2022, the Indian Air Force had taken delivery of a total of 36 Rafale aircraft. These Rafales are equipped with Indian-specific enhancements, including the integration of the long-range Meteor air-to-air missile, low-band frequency jammers, advanced communication systems, an upgraded radio altimeter, radar warning receiver, high-altitude engine start-up capability, synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicator and tracking systems, missile approach warning systems, and very high-frequency radar.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / Indian Air Force Rafale
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / Indian Air Force Rafale with PV effects

The French twin-engine Rafale, with canard delta-wing configuration, is a multipurpose fighter aircraft developed and produced by Dassault Aviation. This adaptable aircraft excels in a wide range of mission profiles, including air superiority, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, deep strike, anti-ship attack, and nuclear deterrence, thanks to its extensive arsenal of weapons. Dassault refers to the Rafale as an ‘omnirole‘ aircraft since it can successfully perform several duties.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

” Dassault’s battle-proven Rafale is the best and most complete combat aircraft, our test pilot has ever flown, delivering an ‘ incredible ‘ level of performance. ” _. Flight International magazine 2009

About the History of Dassault Rafale

In 1984, Dassault initiated the development of a new twin-engined multi-role fighter designed to meet the requirements of both the French Air Force and Navy. The proof-of-concept Rafale A conducted its maiden flight on July 4, 1986. The definitive production version of the Rafale, which took to the skies in May 1991, is slightly smaller in size. This delta-winged aircraft is constructed using advanced materials and is powered by twin M88 turbofan engines situated in the lower fuselage. Notably, it features moving canards positioned beside the cockpit.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

For the French Air Force, there are variants such as the single-seater Rafale C and the two-seater Rafale B. Meanwhile, the French Navy employs the Rafale M, a carrier-borne version specially adapted for naval operations. The Rafale M incorporates modifications such as a twin-wheel nose gear, long-stroke main undercarriage legs, and an arrester hook.

In simple terms, the aircraft comes in three primary variants: the Rafale C, a single-seat land-based version; the Rafale B, a twin-seat land-based version; and the Rafale M, a single-seat carrier-based version.

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Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

The aircraft is equipped with six underwing hardpoints, two wingtip missile stations, six under-fuselage pylons, and an internal 30-mm cannon (with 13 hardpoints on the Rafale M version). Flight testing involved four prototypes, and the maiden flight of one of the 61 initial production aircraft took place in December 1998. The French military originally anticipated a requirement of 234 aircraft.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / the Rafales are designed for short take-offs and landings as well

The Rafale aircraft fully aligns with the objective of fulfilling a broad spectrum of roles with a minimal number of aircraft. It is engaged in a range of missions, including permanent ‘Quick Reaction Alert’ (QRA), air defence, air sovereignty, power projection for external missions, deep strikes, ground force air support, reconnaissance, pilot training sorties, and nuclear deterrence responsibilities.

Debuting in 2001, the Rafale aircraft is crafted for dual service, catering to both the French Air Force and carrier-based deployments with the French Navy. Its global appeal is evident as it has been offered for export to numerous nations and has been chosen and acquired by esteemed air forces such as the Egyptian Air Force, Indian Air Force, Qatar Air Force, Hellenic Air Force, Croatian Air Force, Indonesian Air Force, and the United Arab Emirates Air Force. The Rafale has a history of active involvement in combat operations across various theatres, including missions in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq, and Syria.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

Upgrades and Replacement Program for the Dassault Rafale in France

The Rafale has been meticulously designed with an open software architecture, facilitating seamless upgrades. Dassault, in collaboration with industry partners, has consistently undertaken testing and development initiatives with the primary goal of improving the aircraft’s sensors, avionics, and the integration of additional armament. Notable upgrades considered in 2011 encompassed a software radio and satellite link, a cutting-edge laser-targeting pod, smaller munitions, and refinements to the aircraft’s data-fusion capacity.

In January 2014, the defence ministry allocated funds for the development of the F3R standard, which encompasses the integration of the Meteor BVR missile and other weapons, along with software updates. The F3R standard was successfully validated in 2018.
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

The most recent upgrade program, initiated under the F4 standard, commenced development in 2019. The F4 standard introduced significant enhancements, including radar and sensor upgrades that enhance the detection capabilities for airborne stealth targets over long distances. It also featured improvements in the helmet-mounted display system. The aircraft’s communication equipment was upgraded, making it more effective in network-centric warfare. Flight tests for these upgrades commenced in 2021, and the first F4-standard aircraft was delivered in 2023. Plans include upgrading existing aircraft to this standard, along with procurement of an additional 30 aircraft by the French Air and Space Force in 2023.

The Rafale is slated to serve as the French Air and Space Force’s principal combat aircraft until at least 2040. In 2018, Dassault unveiled plans for the New Generation Fighter (NGF), categorized as a 6th generation Stealth fighter. This next-generation fighter, currently in development by Dassault Aviation and Airbus Defence and Space, is intended to replace France’s Rafale, Germany’s Eurofighter Typhoon, and Spain’s F/A-18 Hornet within the timeframe of 2030 to 2040.

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Indian Air Force Rafale
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

Dassault Rafale: A Cornerstone of India’s Airpower Enhancement

India acquired a fleet of 36 Rafale fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) from Dassault Aviation as part of a government-to-government agreement signed between India and France in 2016. This procurement, valued at nearly Rs 60,000 crore, equips the Indian Air Force with a versatile aircraft capable of performing a wide array of missions. The Rafale is designed for air superiority, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, deep strike capabilities, anti-ship operations, and nuclear deterrence missions.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / Hasimara AFS is designated as home to No. 101 Squadron, renowned as the ‘Falcons’!
The Rafale Advantages
  • Versatility, or the capacity to carry out a variety of tasks using a single system
  • Interoperability, or the capacity to engage in joint combat with allies while adhering to agreed-upon protocols and standards and working with other systems in real-time
  • Flexibility, as seen by the flexibility to carry out multiple missions during a single sortie (“Omnirole” capability). With this capability, it is feasible to convert immediately, at the request of a political decision maker, from a coercive mission (a “strike force”) to a preventive mission (a dissuasive low-altitude, high-speed “show of force”), or even to postpone a mission until the very last minute (reversibility)
  • By being partially stealthy and/or using cutting-edge electronic warfare devices, one can survive in a hostile environment with high threat levels.

The “Omnirole” Rafale combines all three benefits: it is effective against both conventional and asymmetrical threats, it takes into account the military’s changing needs in a shifting geopolitical environment, and it continues to be at the cutting edge of technological innovation.

Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

The Rafale is the transformative fighter that offers a path forward to air forces confronted with the demand of doing “more” with “less” in an ever-changing strategic and economic context because of its versatility, adaptability, and capacity to meet all air mission objectives.

The most recent combat aircraft from Dassault Aviation is medium-sized, incredibly powerful, incredibly agile, and very discrete. It not only integrates the broadest and most advanced array of sensors, but it also multiplies their effectiveness with a technological advance called “multi-sensor data fusion.”

The Indian Air Force placed an order for 36 Rafale aircraft, consisting of 28 single-seat and 8 dual-seat variants. Two additional aircraft were reserved for training purposes in France. As of July 2022, all 36 Rafales had been successfully delivered. These formidable fighters are deployed across two squadrons, with one stationed at Ambala AFS under the banner of No. 17 Squadron (Golden Arrows), and the other based at Hasimara AFS, designated as No. 101 Squadron (Falcons).

They are armed with Mica air-to-air missiles during their regular dogfight sessions
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography / They are armed with Mica air-to-air missiles during their regular dogfight sessions

Dassault Rafale C Specification

  • Length:  50.1 ft ( 15.27 m )
  • Height:  17 ft 6in ( 5.34 m )
  • Wingspan:  35 ft 4in ( 10.80 m )
  • Wing Area:  492 sq ft ( 45.7 m2 )
  • Powerplant: Two Snecma M88-2 turbofan engines rated at 11,250 lbs ( 50.04 kN ) each dry and M-88 Eco 17,000 lbs ( 75kN ) with afterburner
  • Weights:  Empty operating: 20,944 lb ( 9500 kg )  Maximum takeoff:  54,000 lb ( 24,494 kg )
  • Fuel and Load:  Internal Fuel: 10,300 lb ( 4700 kg )  External fuel:  16,500 lb ( 7500 kg )
  • Maximum Weapon Load:  20,950 lb ( 9500 kg )
  • Performance:  Maximum level speed at high altitude:  Mach 2 ( 1,290 kt )
  • Maximum combat radius:  1,000 nm ( 1151 miles; 1852 km )
  • Ferry range:  2,000 nm ( 2299 miles; 3700 km ) with 3 drop tanks
  • Service ceiling:  55,000ft ( 16,800 m )
  • g limits:  +9 3.6 ( +11 in case of extreme emergencies, besides, there are no fuel tanks attached outside )
  • Rate of climb:  304.8 m/s ( 60,000 ft/min )
  • Armament: 2500 rounds/min NEXTER 30M791 30 mm internal cannon. Rafale B/C versions are equipped with 14 external hardpoints, while the Navy version (Rafale M) has 13 hardpoints. The total capacity for external fuel and ordnance is 9,500 kg (20,900 lb). These hardpoints have provisions for carrying various combinations of weaponry, including MBDA MICA, Meteor, and Magic II air-to-air missiles, as well as MBDA Storm Shadow/SCALP-EG, AASM-Hammer, Paveway, Mark-82, and AM 39-Exocet air-to-surface missiles. Additionally, the ASMP-A nuclear deterrence missile is available for use exclusively by the French Air and Space Force.
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Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography
Photo Credit: Hesja Air-Art Photography

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In conclusion, the Rafale aircraft has emerged as a substantial addition to the Indian Air Force, significantly enhancing the nation’s defence capabilities. Featuring exceptional agility, extended range, advanced avionics, and versatile weapon systems, the Rafale stands as a formidable multi-role fighter jet. Its integration into the IAF marks a substantial advancement in reinforcing air superiority, executing precision strikes, and safeguarding national security. The Rafale’s cutting-edge technology and impressive performance render it a crucial asset, fortifying India’s defence capabilities and ensuring readiness across a diverse array of missions and operational scenarios.

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