Explainer: All you need to know about advantages Rafale gives Indian defence


The induction of Rafale multirole air-superiority fighter jets into the Indian Air Force (IAF) puts beyond doubt India's total dominance of the subcontinental airspace, experts say. When Defence Minister Rajnath Singh took delivery of the first of the 36 Rafale warplanes India is buying from French aircraft maker Dassault in Bordeaux on Tuesday, the balance of power in the region was shifting decisively in India's favour.

It is significant thatthe two squadronsof the twin-engine Rafale warplanes the IAF is buying will be based at Ambala airforce base in Haryana, within earshot of the international border with Pakistan.

There have been suggestions that the presence of an advanced fighter like Rafale in such proximity would have deterred the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) from the misadventure of crossing over to Indian air space on February 27 a day after IAF jets bombed the Balakot terror training camp deep inside Pakistani territory of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa to avenge the Pulwama attack.

Although IAF already has other twin-engine air-superiority fighters in Sukhoi-30MKIand MiG-29, their radars and missile systems are suspect when squared up against US-made F-16s armed with the AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM). IAF's longest-range air-to-air missile is Russian-built R-77, which sources say, cannot realistically be expected to be accurate beyond 80km while F-16s fired their AIM-120s at close to the maximum range of 100km.

What features make Rafale one of the more feared, high-performance deterrents for air forces around the world?

The twin-engine fighter with single- and double-crew configurations can cruise at Mach 1.1 (more than the speed of sound) at low altitude and reach up to Mach 1.8 at higher altitudes. Thewarplane has an impressive range of more than 3,700km with a combat radius of 1,850km and a rate of climb, which is critical in dogfights, of 340 metres per second with a service ceiling of 15,285 metres.

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