Friday, October 22, 2021

Rafale Jets Outfitted With Storm Shadow Missiles Add Lethal Punch To Indian Air Force’s Deep Strike Capabilities

The SCALP, also known as the Storm Shadow, is a long-range, air-launched, standoff attack missile developed by European defense giant MBDA Systems. Recently Indian Air Force’s (IAF) Rafale fighter jets were spotted with these missiles.

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Previously, the Royal Air Force’s Typhoon had used the Storm Shadow cruise missile in a combat mission.

The SCALP is a derivative of the MBDA Systems’ Apache anti-runway missile and has been offered primarily to the UK and French armed forces. This weapon is used to strike at high-value stationary targets such as airbases, radar installations, communication hubs as well as port facilities, according to MBDA.

Owing to its long-range, low-altitude, and subsonic speed, the Storm Shadow is categorized as a stealth missile. This missile has been in service with countries such as Egypt, India, Italy, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE Air Force calls it ‘Black Shaheen’.

Storm Shadow/SCALP missile
A long-range Storm Shadow/SCALP missile. (Wikipedia)

The Storm Shadow can be integrated into Tornado GR4, Tornado IDS, Saab Gripen, Mirage 2000, Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon as well as F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft.

The SCALP missile is equipped with fire-and-forget technology with a fully autonomous guidance system. It is 5.1 m in length, with a wingspan of 3 meters, and has a body diameter of 0.48 m. While MBDA says that the 1,300 kg missile has a range of more than 250 km, experts claim that it can go beyond 560 km depending on its launch altitude.

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The Storm Shadow cruise is fitted with a two-stage bomb royal ordnance augmented charge (BROACH) blast/ penetrator warhead. It has a Turbomeca Microturbo TRI 60-30 turbojet propulsion system, which can produce a 5.4kN of thrust.

IAF Showcases Its SCALP Missiles

In a rare event, the Indian Air Force, for the first time, shared images of its Rafale fighter jet carrying the SCALP cruise missile.

“When you know how to be Smart and Pretty — Ways of the World”, IAF had tweeted as they shared the images. In the photographs, the Rafale jets can be seen carrying the SCALP missile on its “centreline” pylon.

Rafale-Scalp
An IAF Rafale seen armed with what appears to be a SCALP missile.

One Rafale jet is capable of carrying two of the SCALP missiles, which is part of its weapons package. The IAF also has its air-launched BrahMos missile in service. Along with this, the SCALP cruise missile will further bolster the IAF’s airpower.

In 2015, India and France had signed a landmark deal worth $9.4 billion for 36 Rafale fighters. Until last month, India received 26 Dassault Aviation manufactured jets and France decided to hand over three Rafale fighters every month until December 2021. The 36th one will be provided in January 2022 and will carry all India-specific enhancements, The EurAsian Times earlier reported.

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The India-specific enhancements include Hammer air-to-ground, SCALP land attack, and Meteor air-to-air missiles.

The existing Rafales with the Indian Air Force have been divided between two squadrons located in Haryana’s Ambala and West Bengal’s Hasimara. IAF Rafales have been patrolling India’s borders with China in eastern Ladakh where the militaries of the two nuclear-armed neighbors have been locked in a standoff for more than a year.

British Typhoons’ Combat Mission 

The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Typhoon FGR4 fighter jets had deployed Storm Shadow cruise missile to attack ISIS fighters who were hiding in the caves in northern Iraq. This mission was part of the UK’s ‘Operation Shader’ against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

The mission took place on March 11. The Storm Shadow missile was chosen as “the most appropriate weapon for the task” since the Iraqi forces had identified a large number of ISIS hideouts.

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The UK Defence Ministry had confirmed that the Typhoons had conducted an airstrike against the cave complexes located southwest of Erbil.

During the mission, two Typhoon FGR4 fighter jets, which were forward-based at RAF Akrotiri on the island of Cyprus, situated in the eastern Mediterranean, were given the task to conduct the mission.

RAF Typhoon carrying Storm Shadow
An RAF Typhoon carrying Storm Shadow and other munitions. (Image: Eurofighter)

This airstrike was in support of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) ground forces. Before the attack, the CTS had conducted thorough surveillance of the entire area to ensure that no civilians were at risk. After the Storm Shadow mission, the UK Defence Ministry said “weapons were confirmed to have struck their targets precisely”.

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Previously, the Storm Shadow cruise missiles were used in combat missions by the RAF’s Tornado GR4 strike aircraft. The jets had dropped deployed these missiles during the initial phases of Iraq’s invasion in 2003 and during an air raid over Libya in 2011.

According to reports, the Storm Shadow was also used by Saudi Arabia during its mission against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. France has used this missile for conducting combat missions as well. A naval version of this weapon has also been developed for launching the missile from surface warships and submarines.

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