Yesterday, as the country celebrated its 87th Air Force Day, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh officially received the first Rafale fighter jet for India manufactured by the French aviation company, Dassault. Rajnath, is on a three day visit to France. He attended the handover ceremony of Rafale fighter jet along with France’s Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly.
Rajnath performed Shastra Puja on the new Rafale as he adorned it with an ‘Om’ tilak to mark the induction ceremony. He also laid flowers and a coconut before taking off in it for a sortie.
Shastra Puja is honouring the very weapons one uses to crush his enemies. This tradition started in ancient India and it remained alive in the medieval times when respect was paid to weapons. The tradition has continued in modern times as well. With the Shastra Puja India has showed its Indianness to the world.
With this India has taken its air combat capabilities to the next level, which gives the IAF a strategic edge over Pakistan and China. Rajnath Singh said, “Our Air Force is the fourth-largest in the world and I believe that the Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft will make us even stronger and will give a boost to India’s air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region.”
The induction of Rafale will prove to be a gamechanger. It is pertinent to mention here that only about a week ago, the IAF Chief, RKS Bhadauria elaborated upon why induction of Rafale in the IAF is a big event. He said, “Rafale is a very capable aircraft, once we induct it, it will be a gamechanger in terms of our operational capability and when we use it in combination with SU-30 and other fleets which we have, we would have a serious jump in our capability. It will give us an edge over Pakistan and China.” As per retired Air Marshal M Matheswaran, “Pakistan has the multi-role F-16 in its inventory. But it is only as good as the Mirage 2000 of India. There is nothing equivalent to the Rafale in Pakistan.” Therefore, the Rafale enjoys clear superiority over Pakistan and that should deter Pakistan against any misadventure. After the Balakot airstrikes, we witnessed how the two countries can end up engaging in a dogfight when things start escalating. With Rafale at India’s disposal, Pakistan will have a tough time tackling India’s air power.
Rafale is categorised as a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft as it boasts of radar-evading stealth profile that would prove to be a turning point for the IAF. Currently, it doesn’t possess any jet which can be categorised at this level of technological superiority. Even the upgraded versions of Mirage 2000 and the Su-30 MkI can at best be categorised as fourth-generarion aircrafts. The indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas can also be categorised as a fourth generation fighter jet in terms of avionics and technology. However, it is too small to make a difference.
The ‘omnirole’ Rafale comes with a diversity of weapons and boasts of the capability to perform a variety of functions such as aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike and nuclear deterrence. Some of the special features include the ‘buddy-buddy’ refuelling capabilities wherein one Rafale aircraft can lend its fuel to another while still in flight. It can also fire METEOR missiles, viz, a beyond visual range missile that can take out an enemy aircraft at a range of over 100 kilometers. The aircraft can also be equipped with the SCALP missiles that can take away ground targets upto a range of 300 kilometres. The Rafale also boasts of the capability to carry nuclear warheads making it even more lethal. It is because of such features that it was felt that had Rafale been available during the Balakot airstrikes, the results would have even been better.
What makes this induction even more fruitful is the fact that many India specific enhancements are being carried out and the IAF personnel are reportedly training with the French with respect to operations and maintenance. The induction of the Rafale is therefore going to be a turning point as far as IAF’s capabilities and firepower are concerned.