IAF to commence upgradation of Rafale aircraft from 2022

With India-specific enhancements, from January 2022, the Indian Air Force would start upgrading its fleet of French origin Rafale fighters having already received around 30 Rafale combat aircraft from France, as per official reports.

As government sources told ANI, in order to evaluate the performance of the testbed aircraft with the tail number are RB-008 at the Istres airbase, a high-level team of the Indian Air Force officers is currently in France for the same while all the India specific enhancements have been equipped by the aircraft which have as agreed upon between the two sides in the 2016 contract.

Upcoming plans

As per the above-cited officials, in order to make the Indian planes more capable, the upgrade is planned to be started from January next year onwards once the enhancements are approved and accepted by the Indian Air Force while low band jammers, integration of capable missiles and satellite communication systems shall be included in the India specific enhancements which are required by the country.

According to official reports, three more of such planes shall be arriving in India on December 7 or 8 while already 30 of these planes have been received by India.

Kits would be brought to India from France while every month around 3 to 4 Indian Rafales shall be upgraded as per the ISE standards according to contract schedule, as said by sources in the Air Force. That said, the RB-008 shall be the last aircraft to arrive in India from France.

Being the first base of the plane in the country, the upgrade of the aircraft shall be carried out at the Ambala Air Force Station.

Major acquisition in 23 years

An inter-governmental agreement was signed with France for the procurement of 36 Rafale jets in 2016 at a cost of around ₹59,000 crores. Out of the total order placed to Dassault Aviation, 26 jets have been received by India so far.

The twin-engine jets have the capability of carrying out a variety of missions, such as ground and sea attack, air defence and air superiority, reconnaissance along with nuclear strike deterrence. After the Sukhoi jets were imported from Russia 23 years back, these jets are considered to be India’s first major acquisition of fighter jets. 

After flying for around a distance of almost 8,000 km from France, the seventh batch of three more Rafale fighter jets arrived in India in July while the first batch of the jets arrived on July 29 the previous year.

A squadron comprises around 18 aircraft, and the new batch of the aircraft is said to be a part of the IAF’s second squadron of the Rafale jets that shall be based in Hasimara airbase in West Bengal. On the other hand, the first Rafale squadron is said to be based in the Ambala air force station. 

Equipped with the best

Earlier this year, Images of a Rafale fighter jet carrying a Scalp cruise missile was released by the Indian Air Force in one of their tweets. 

The missile believed to have a range of 500 km is capable of intercepting targets at a 560 km distance (depending on parameters such as its launch altitude) was seen on the ‘centreline’ pylon of the fighter and is said to be a part of the weapons package. 

What is a Scalp missile?

Known to be as the ‘game changer’, The Indian Air Force received the SCALP and Meteor missiles for its Rafale fighter jets the previous year. Manufactured by European defence giant MBDA, it is designed to hit high value and strongly protected targets. 

The Rafale jets are capable of carrying two of the missiles that will enable them to hit virtually any enemy target. SCALP is also said to be a stealth missile that can escape radar detection and fly at low levels. The said missiles were used in the Gulf War and have been a part of the UK’s Royal Air Force along with the French Air Force.

Although India is equipped with the air-launched Brahmos missile, the Scalp is believed to come as an additional boost to the IAF’s air defence capabilities.

According to one of the MBDA officials, The missile is capable of carrying out high destruction against high-value assets such as bridges, railroads, power plants, airfields, buried bunkers and command and control centres, and can also be able to evade enemy air defence units with its ground-hugging trajectory. 

Current status

After training personnel in France, now the Indian Airforce has commenced the training of its Pilots on the aircraft within the country itself. On the other hand, the fleet would have eight twin-seater trainer planes with tail numbers in the RB series once inducted completely while with the BS tail number series 20 single-seaters shall be there.

For acquiring around 114 multirole fighter aircrafts, India is now planning to go ahead with the case for which it has to be moved to the Defence Ministry by the Indian Air Force in the near future.

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Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal is a Defence and Aerospace Journalist with his articles/works on various digital and print media platforms. He is an Anchor/Host and Correspondent associated with several News Media Organizations. *Views are personal
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