India on Wednesday received its first batch of new combat-proven fighter aircraft with the arrival of five Rafale jets, giving the country's air power a strategic edge. The aircraft, having an undisputed track record and considered one of the most potent combat jets globally, landed at the Ambala Air Force airbase at around 3.14 pm after covering a distance of 7,000 km from the Merignac airbase in French port city of Bordeaux.
Each jet was given a special water cannon salute at the strategically-located airbase in the presence of top brass of the Indian Air Force including Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria who had played a key role as lead negotiator in the procurement of the jets. Welcoming the arrival of the jets, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a tweet in Sanskrit, said there is no virtue like protecting the nation and there is no vow like the defence of the nation.
"The Birds have landed safely in Ambala," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted as soon as the aircraft touched down. At the same time, he used the occasion to send a veiled message to China. "I would like to add, if it is anyone who should be worried about or critical about this new capability of the Indian Air Force, it should be those who want to threaten our territorial integrity," the defence minister said. The Rafales were escorted by two Sukhoi 30 MKIs after they entered the Indian air space.
A look at how Rafale fighters will be a gamechanger against Pakistan and China:
* Rafale vs China’s Chengdu J-20:
* Combat proven: While China’s Chengdu J-20 jets are called fifth-generation combat jets, compared to 4.5 generation Rafale, the J-20 have no actual combat experience while Rafale has been used by the French Air Force for its missions in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. Rafale can also carry more fuel and weapons than the J-20. Rafale can carry out at least four missions in one sortie while the J-20 cannot carry out multiple missions in one go.
* Rafale vs Pakistan’s F16: 190-kg Meteor missile has a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) of over 100 km, travelling at a top speed of Mach 4. The F-16 jets, used by Pakistan, carry the AMRAAM missile, which has a BVR of 75 km. Rafale can also outperform F16 in dogfights. PAF will have to deploy two F16s to counter one Rafale.
* Can be deployed in Ladakh: The Indian Air Force could deploy the first batch of Rafale fighter jets in the Ladakh sector, amid ongoing tension on the border with China.
Details of how it will bring changes in the IAF:
* More Advanced Technology: The Rafales are armed with 'Meteor' air-to-air missiles (120-150 km strike range), 'Scalp' air-to-ground cruise missiles (over 300 km) and other armaments. The Meteor missiles are arguably the best in the world for air combat duels, with “a greater no-escape zone” for hostile fighters than any comparable BVR (beyond visual range) weapon. Pakistan and China do not currently have any missiles of this class in their combat inventories.
* Combat Proven: With more than 30,000 flight hours in operations, it has proven its worth in combat in Afghanistan, Libya, Mali, Iraq and Syria. On the other hand, Pakistan JF-17 and Chengdu J-20 are yet to be tested in battles or war-like situations.
* IAF's lack of long-range weapons over: For almost two decades, the IAF has been perceived to be handicapped on long-range weapons and sensors vis-a-vis PAF. Rafale will reverse this and give IAF the decisive edge with better sensors and weapons. Each Rafale in the air would require at least two F16s for a counter-challenge.
* Edge over rivals: The Rafale fighters will be able to outgun and outrun Pakistani F-16 and JF-17 as well as the Chinese Chengdu J-20 fighters. According to sources, the air-to-air and the air-to-ground strike capabilities of Rafales cannot be matched by either China or Pakistan and the aircraft would give India an edge over both the rivals.
* Air superiority: The state-of-the-art 4.5 Generation Rafale jet can reach almost double the speed of sound, with a top speed of 1.8 Mach. With its multi-role capabilities, including electronic warfare, air defence, ground support and in-depth strikes, the Rafale lends air superiority to the Indian Air Force.
* Enhance offensive capabilities of IAF: The jet is capable of carrying out a variety of missions--ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance and nuclear strike deterrence. The Rafale will be the seventh addition to the types of fighters that the IAF has--a feat very unique to the force in comparison to major air forces in the world.
* Can shoot down enemy targets without crossing border: Rafale jet will be able to shoot down an enemy aircraft, even if over 100 km away, without even crossing the Indian air space.
* Omnirole (ability to perform multiple mission types simultaneously): The jet is capable of performing several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles during a very low altitude penetration phase, giving it outstanding survivability.
* Can avoid being tracked by Pakistan: The multi-role combat aircraft, reportedly, has a range of between 780-1055 km compared to the 400-550 km of the Su 30 MKI. This means that India will now be able to engage Pakistani aircraft from larger distances, without the risk of being tracked.
* All-weather capability: Meteor provides the all-weather capability to engage a wide variety of targets from fast jets to small unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.
* Pre-planned attacks can be averted: The Scalp is an air-launched long-range deep strike missile, designed to deal with pre-planned attacks against high value fixed or stationary targets.
* Capability to take out any bunkers: The HAMMERs would give India the capability to take out any bunkers or hardened shelters in any type of terrain including the mountainous locations such as Eastern Ladakh.
* Will make IAF stronger: The aircraft has very good flying performance and its weapons, radar and other sensors and Electronic Warfare capabilities are amongst the best in the world.
* Quick reaction deployment in high altitude possible: Specially tailored for the IAF, the Rafale jets have cold engine start capability to operate from high-altitude bases including Leh.