Today's Editorial

Today's Editorial - 09 August 2023

The Rafale Marine jet from France

Source: By Amrita Nayak Dutta: The Indian Express

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) held a crucial meeting to clear proposals to buy 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets for the Navy, along with three Scorpene submarines for the force.

The approval by the DAC — which clears proposals for big-ticket capital procurements and is headed by defence minister Rajnath Singh — paves the way for a possible announcement on procuring the Rafale M aircraft during Modi’s Paris visit.

While the DAC has granted the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) to procure the 26 fighter jets — which is the first step of the long defence procurement process — the price and other terms of purchase will be negotiated subsequently with the French government, since they will be bought on an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) basis.

Difference between Rafale jets and their Marine version

The Rafale Marine fighters are the naval variant of the Rafale fighter jets, 36 of which are operated by the Indian Air Force.

Manufactured by France’s Dassault Aviation, the Rafales are advanced twin enginemultirole fighter jets are equipped with latest weapon systems — including Meteor-beyond visual range air-to-air missilesHammer air to surface smart weapon systemScalp cruise missiles — and are fitted with modern sensors, and radar to detect and track and attack targets. The jets can carry exceptionally high payloads.

Additionally, the jets have also been equipped with certain India-specific enhancements and can carry out a range of missions.

The Marine version of the jets will be slightly different, given that they will operate from aircraft carriers on sea.

The differences include foldable wings, a longer airframe for landing on carriers, and a tail hook for arrested landing on a carrier. As per French firm Safran, the nose and main landing gears on the navy version have been reinforced to satisfy the difficult aircraft carriers landing and catapulting conditions for the aircraft.

The Rafale M nose gear also incorporates the “jump strut technology” in the shock absorber to give the aircraft an angle of attack during catapulting.

This naval version of the aircraft can also carry a wider range of weapons, including anti-ship missiles and air to surface missiles and radar meant for maritime operations.

Rafale M and MiG 29Ks

The Navy currently operates the MiG-29Ks from its aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. The Russian MiG-29Ks are a carrier-based multirole fighter aircraft and can have a maximum speed over twice the speed of sound (about 2,000 kmph) and can climb to an altitude of over 65,000 feet.

It is equipped with sophisticated weapon systems and is capable of engaging targets in air, at sea or on land. As per the Navy, the latest avionics, with data link capabilities coupled with its range of armament enables “true power projection” and its air-to-air refueling capability offer major extension to its ranges.

However, with some of them expected to retire in a decade and with the Navy now having two operational aircraft carriers at present, there was a need to procure additional deck-based fighters to meet its operational requirements until it acquires the indigenous Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF) which is currently under development by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under the DRDO.

However, only two aircraft had managed to meet the criteria for the Navy’s fighter jet deal–the Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M. The Rafale M, having common spares and support as the Rafale operated by the Indian Air Force, thus had an edge over the other.

Rafale exports

As per Dassault Aviation, the Rafale is one of the key components of France’s nuclear deterrence.

It said by the end of 2022, France had ordered a total of 192 Rafales, including 12 aircraft to compensate for those sold to Greece; out of these, 153 have already been delivered.

A further order (to be announced in 2023) for 30 more fighters is planned as part of the 2019-2025 military spending bill, to which 12 further Rafales will be added 12 further Rafales to offset those sold to Croatia, it said. The aircraft has logged a total of 405,000 flight-hours– including 63,500 operational hours flown by French pilots since 2007.

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