By Gp Capt. Anupam Banerjee (r.)
The Indian Air Force is going to witness some serious game changing capability boost in the New Year.
The IAF has inducted 30 Rafale’s into its fleet and is all set to complete the process with the remaining six by mid-2022. Apart from providing a much-needed boost to the dwindling numbers of the Air Force’s fighter fleet, the completion of India specific enhancements will give the aircraft additional operational edge.
Though the specifics of the enhancements are classified, information that is available and can be shared indicates radar warning receiver, low band jammer, synthetic aperture radar, missile approach warning systems, ground moving target indicator and tracking, infra-red search and track, helmet-mounted display and very high-frequency range decoys might be part of the package. Additionally, Hammer and SCALP Air to Ground Missiles and most importantly Meteor Air to Air Missile with a range in excess of 120 km powered by a throttleable Ramjet engine and a no escape zone of 60 km are very potent weapon packages.
Moving forward, adversaries will need to change their Air Combat tactics and will start any air combat situation with severe disadvantage. The Air Force is authorised for 42 squadrons, however reaching that goal may possibly take another couple of decades, thus maintaining a technological edge over adversaries is an important element to bridge this gap.
Besides the Rafale being fully operational, the air force also sees the introduction of an Air Defence System, the S-400 missile system, which has but one peer, the American Patriot Missile System and that which is not likely to be in the service of adversaries.
The S-400 uses up to five different types of missiles to cover its entire performance envelope. The 9M96E missiles are used for ranges of up to 40 km; 9M96E2 will be used for up to 120 km; while 48N6E2 are used for ranges up to 200 km and 48N6E3 for ranges up to 250 km and the most potent 40N6 missiles are used for ranges up to 400 km.
The layered defence up to such great ranges is in itself a game changer. Especially for an adversary which does not enjoy great strategic depth and the width of the country at places is not more than 400 kms. This effectively means with the combination of the Rafale and S-400 in the inventory, at places the adversary aircraft will be vulnerable at take-off from the home bases. This will be a severe psychological disadvantage.
India is a country that is at constant threat from its two nuclear armed neighbours, with a round the year high level of operational readiness making it effectively peerless. For India, it is the need of the hour to maintain the balance of power in the subcontinent. IAF’s induction of these potent platforms will certainly help achieve that aim.