With the second batch Dassault Rafale jets set to land on the Indian soil, the Indian Air Force will have a hefty squad of capable fighters at hand, especially at a time when the nation becomes battle-ready for a potential clash with neighbours China in the sub-zero conditions of Eastern Ladakh.
Considering the first batch of the five French fighters already operational as they carry out regular sorties in the Ladakh sector, New Delhi is confident that the aerial prowess of the 4.5 generation fighters might be too much for Beijing to handle.
With the acquisition of Rafales, France President Emmanuel Macron has equipped India with state-of-the-art technology, with the Omni-role fighters more than capable of adapting to India’s battle conditions, in a bid to provide aerial dominance to a region, which currently finds itself sandwiched between “Iron Brothers” China and Pakistan.
According to France’s Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain taking the Tribune, the Rafale deal has instilled a sense of mutual trust between the two nations and he feels that the country will benefit immensely through Paris’ technology transfer to New Delhi.
“Our defence cooperation is first and foremost based on mutual trust. Take the Rafale fighter jet for instance: it takes great trust on both sides to share a military asset that is so close to the core of our sovereignty.
Moreover, Indian companies will benefit from offsets amounting to 50% of the Rafale contract, including through technology transfer. French defence companies have contributed to Make in India for decades, and will continue to do so.” said Lenain.
The French fighters can perform a range of missions ranging from interception, air-to-air combat, close air support, deep and maritime strike capabilities, reconnaissance, with the most prominent being their nuclear deterrence.
Rafales serve as the backbone of French nuclear aircraft with their history of service and are likely to replicate that role in India, especially considering that the nation is still finding its way maneuvering in the high altitudes of the Ladakh plateau.
“India has a not-inconsiderable amount of experience fighting at altitude—and now has the modern equipment to back up the tactics. Combined with the French airplanes’ ability to carry nuclear weapons, India could be getting a particularly powerful new addition to their air capabilities,” said Defence Expert Caleb Larson, while writing for the National Interest.
Moreover, even if one takes out the China conflict out of the picture, the French Rafales are here to stay and give India a definitive edge over the entire region.
According to French Defence Minister Florence Parly, her homeland’s fighters will help provide New Delhi with the level of superiority it needs to defend its people. While speaking at the induction ceremony of the first batch of Rafales at the Ambala Air Force base in India’s northern Haryana state last month, Parly had stated –
“In military terms, it means that India will acquire a world-class capability, truly among the best in the world that would give your air force an incredible sovereign tool,”
In strategic terms, it means India will have an edge over the entire region to defend itself and protect its people.”
The Rafales are a twin-engine, canard-delta wing, multirole fighter aircrafts equipped with a wide range of weapons with European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and SCALP air-to-ground cruise missile forming the mainstay of the fighters.
Although not really a stealth aircraft, Rafales have been designed for a reduced radar cross-section (RCS) and infrared signature, which means it has some stealth features, which have neither been exaggerated nor been over-hyped.
The fighters along with Russia made Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG 29, French Mirage-2000 and indigenously built HAL Tejas, are expected to boost India’s air dominance exponentially.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had himself earlier admitted that had the Rafales been used to strike the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot in February this year, the outcome would have been even better.
“Rafale fighters could have delivered even better results,” Modi had stated
While there is no doubt regarding the lethality of the French fighters, there have been concerns regarding the extravagant spending on acquiring the fighters considering the amount earlier planned for the purchase is stark low as compared to the actual sum spent.
According to a report, while the cost of procuring 126 Rafales back in 2012 was estimated to be around 7.75 billion euros, the costs for the current 36 Rafales come out to be around 7.1 billion euros.
While the costs do increase considering the price of the overall deal with factors like associated supplies for infrastructure and support, costs related to India-specific changes made to the planes, the weapons package and “performance-based logistics support”, it is baffling to understand still how the planes cost three times the planned estimate.
According to Mohan Guruswamy, writing for the National Herald India – “It’s abundantly clear that we are now paying substantially enhanced costs for the new lot of Rafales,”
(Indian lawmaker) Rahul Gandhi tried to make the Rafale issue the sharp edge of the sword to politically slay Narendra Modi. He did not succeed, but that does not absolve the Modi government for not providing convincing answers as to why we are paying almost three times more for each Rafale jet than what was offered in 2014. The people need an explanation. It is not a defence secret. It is an essential truth that is being sought,”