New Delhi: India would get 35 omni-role Rafale fighters from France by current year end with the last one making a solo journey to soon to be activated Hashimara air base in north Bengal in January 2022. Already 26 fighters have been delivered with 24 in India and remaining two kept for IAF pilot and technician training in France.
Given the reliability of strategic ally France, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy have evinced keen interest in Rafale platform due to its weight to power ratio and maritime strike capabilities. Apparently, the IAF leadership wants to acquire another 36 Rafales in future and the Navy is looking at Rafale-M as a fighter option on-board INS Vikrant (Indigenous aircraft carrier-1), to be commissioned next year.
The induction of Rafale into western and eastern theatre has force multiplied Indian war making capabilities as the French fighter is armed with the longest range air-to-air Meteor missile in the sub-continent, Hammer air to ground smart munition and long range SCALP air to ground weapon.
The Hammer missile, which has been acquired by India under emergency purchases, can be released at a height of mere 500 feet to hit a high altitude target more than 70 km away. The missile hugs the terrain and then climbs to a height of over 4000 metres before striking the target from a top down action. The Indian Rafales carry specially modified Hammer missiles due to high altitude targets, mountainous terrain and Chinese recently acquired Russian S-400 air defence systems. In fact, the French have offered to jointly develop Hammer and Meteor missiles with India with extended range and heavier payload.