NEW DELHI: As it inducts a first batch of five Rafale jets in the midst of the border row with China in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Air Force is looking at integrating the fleet with new generation air-to-ground missile systems having a strike range of up to 60 KM, people familiar with the development said.
The aircraft is capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile, Scalp cruise missile and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale jets.
The people cited above said the IAF is zeroing in on procuring new generation medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon system Hammer to integrate with the Rafale jets, using the emergency financial powers provided by the government to the armed forces for faster acquisition of key weapons and platforms.
Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a precision-guided missile developed by French defence major Safran. The missile was originally designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy.
In view of the border row with China, the defence ministry this month granted special powers to the three services for individual capital procurement programme worth Rs 300 crore to meet emergent operational requirements.
There will be no cap on the number of procurement programmes and that each acquisition under the emergency requirement category should not cost more than Rs 300 crore, according to officials.
They said the first batch of Rafale jets is likely to be deployed in the Ladakh sector by the second half of next month.
India will receive a total of 36 Rafale jets under a Rs 58,000 crore contract. The Meteor, Scalp and MICA weapons system will be the mainstay of the Rafale jets.
The Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat. The weapon has been developed by MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden.
The Meteor is powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor that gives it far more engine power for much longer than any other missile, said an official.
The Scalp is a deep-strike cruise missile known for having pinpoint terminal accuracy through its highly accurate seeker and target recognition system.
The Rafales will also be equipped with MICA weapon system which is integrated into IAF’s Mirage 2000 aircraft.
Besides the missile systems, the Rafale jets will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infra-red search and tracking systems among others.
The IAF has already completed preparations, including readying required infrastructure and training of pilots, to welcome the fighter aircraft.
The second squadron of Rafale will be stationed at Hasimara base in West Bengal.
The IAF spent around Rs 400 crore to develop required infrastructure like shelters, hangers and maintenance facilities at the two bases.
Out of 36 Rafale jets, 30 will be fighter jets and six will be trainers.
The trainer jets will be twin-seater and they will have almost all the features of the fighter jets.