The recently arrived French Rafale jets have given a massive boost to the Indian Air Force (IAF). Loaded with BVRAAM (beyond visual range) Meteor missile, the Rafales can boast to be the most powerful jets in Asia today.
This has got Pakistan worried. The foreign office of Pakistan recently issued a statement saying that acquisition of nuclear-capable Rafale jets was a clear indication that India was amassing military capabilities beyond its security needs.
Last year, during the aerial skirmishes along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir between Indian and Pakistani Air Force, an Indian MiG-21 jet was shot down by a U.S.-made AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) possibly fired by US-built F-16 jet.
India also claimed to have downed a Pakistani jet – an assertion rejected by Islamabad – but India was left red-faced with the capture of its MiG-21 pilot (Abhinandan Varthaman), who was paraded on Pakistani television and later released.
What really bothered the Indian Air Force was that Pakistan was able to shoot-down an Indian jet from a very long range without giving any change to the Indian jets. Indian jets which were probably targetted included India’s front line Sukhoi-30 MKIs which only managed to evade the AMRAAMs and were never able to hit back.
Fully defensive and desperate to escape the hostile AMRAAMs, the Sukhoi-30 MKIs avoided being shot down but were helpless to counter the Pakistani F-16s because they were out of position and their own missiles, the Russian R-77s, did not have the range to challenge the Pakistani jets. IAF sources had confirmed to NDTV that the Russian missiles do not match its advertised range and cannot engage targets which are more than 80 kilometers away.
Experts talking to EurAsian Times had then stated – the AMRAAM had outranged the Indian jets in air-to-air missiles and Pakistani F-16s had outgunned the best of Indian jets.
The AMRAAM of the Pakistani F-16s has been a thorn in India’s side for a long time. The early-model AIM-120A/B has a range of up to 75 kilometres. But in 2010, Pakistan received a batch of the AIM-120C-5, with a range of 100 kilometres.
This allowed the Pakistani jets to fire at the Indian fighter jets even without spotting them. This forced Indian jets to evade missiles rather than target the Pakistani F-16s. Instead of being the predator, the IAF jets became the prey.
Rafale Jets vs F-16s
However, with the arrival of 4++ generation Rafale jet loaded with the deadlier BVRAAM (Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile) Meteor, suddenly Pakistani jets including the F-16s loaded with AMRAAM comes under direct threat. Others jets of Pakistan Air Force including the much-hyped JF-17 would be the most vulnerable to the Rafales.
Unlike Rafale jet which is produced by Dassault Aviation, the meteor missile is produced by MBDA and is a game-changer for the IAF. Even the stealth, fifth-generation F-35s that the UK (Royal Air Force) is operating is equipped with meteor missiles.
It is an active radar-guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) and is powered by a propulsion system and uses GmbH’s solid fuel, variable flow, ducted rocket system, also called ramjet. The Ramjet propulsion system gives Meteor the ability to throttle its engine (control engine power) during the various stages of its flight towards its target. The propulsion system in a standard air-to-air missile does not give this option.
This capability gives Meteor the largest ‘no-escape zone’ — the area within which the target can’t kinetically avoid being hit or the kill probability is very high. The meteor has an extended range of 120kms (against 100 km of AMRAAMs) which allows it to excel at hunting and destroying threats at over long distances even under severe weather conditions.
According to experts at EurAsian Times, it is not just the jet that has stoked fear in Islamabad. The Meteor missile outclasses the AMRAAM and puts the F-16s under a direct threat. For decades Islamabad boasted about the superiority of the F-16, but the IAF’s Rafales have taken it away.
The Rafales will be part of the No. 17 Squadron of the Air Force, also known as the ”Golden Arrows’. The pending Rafale’s are expected to be delivered by the end of 2021.