By Sangeeta Saxena

IAF Rafale

New Delhi. 11 September 2020. Rafales have arrived in India, got inducted into the Indian Air force and the euphoria of having them in the inventory is still strong. But what makes them neighbour’s envy and owners pride are the weapon package they have come with. MBDA, Snecma and Nexter together have given the Rafales the formidable fighter status.

It comes with MBDA’s Meteor, MICA and Scalp missiles, Snecma’s Hammer and Nexter’s gun. The Rafale has been cleared to operate the MICA air-to-air “Beyond Visual Range” (BVR) interception, combat and self-defense missiles, in their IR (heat-seeking) and EM (active radar homing), the METEOR very long-range air-to-air missile and ram-jet powered air-to-air EM missile, the HAMMER (standing for Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range) modular, rocket-boosted air-to-ground precision guided weapon series, fitted with INS/GPS or INS/GPS/IIR (imaging infra-red) guidance kits, or with the upcoming INS/GPS/laser guidance, SCALP long-range stand-off missile, AM39 EXOCET anti-ship missile, Laser-guided bombs with different warheads from 500lbs to 2,000 lbs, Classic bombs non guided and the 2500 rounds/min NEXTER 30M791 30 mm internal cannon, available on both single and two-seaters.

Meteor is an active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) developed by MBDA. Meteor offers a multi-shot capability,  against long range maneuvering targets, jets, UAVs and cruise missiles in a heavy electronic countermeasures (ECM) environment with a range in excess of 100 kilometres (54 nmi). A solid-fueled ramjet motor allows the missile to cruise at a speed of over Mach 4 and provides the missile with thrust and mid-way acceleration to target intercept. A two-way datalink enables the launch aircraft to provide mid-course target updates or retargeting if required, including data from off-board third parties. The datalink is capable of transmitting missile information such as functional and kinematic status, information about multiple targets, and notification of target acquisition by the seeker. Meteor is the next generation of Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) system designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat in the 21st Century. The weapon brings together six nations with a common need to defeat the threats of today as well as the future emerging ones.

Guided by an advanced active radar seeker, Meteor provides all weather capability to engage a wide variety of targets from agile fast jets to small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and cruise missiles. It is designed to meet the most stringent of requirements and is capable of operating in the most severe of clutter and countermeasure environments.

The weapon is also equipped with data link communication. Aimed at meeting the needs of a network centric environment, Meteor can be operated using third party data, enabling the Meteor user – the pilot – to have the most flexible weapon system. With a Weight of 190 kg, Length of 3.7 m and Diameter of 178 mm Meteor’s stunning performance is achieved through its unique ramjet propulsion system – solid fuel, variable flow, ducted rocket. This ‘ramjet’ motor provides the missile with thrust all the way to target intercept, providing the largest No-Escape Zone of any air-to-air missile. To ensure total target destruction, the missile is equipped with both impact and proximity fuses and a fragmentation warhead that detonates on impact or at the optimum point of intercept to maximise lethality.

MICA is the multi-mission air-to-air missile system for the Rafale and the latest versions of Mirage 2000-5 combat aircraft. It has a high level of tactical flexibility in order to meet the most demanding operational requirements like Beyond Visual Range (BVR) multi-target / multi-shoot, Enhanced Short Range (SR) performance and Maximum flexibility for multi-role / swing-role aircraft. MICA has a totally dual role. It is able to cope with both BVR and SR combat situations and exhibits very high performance in both situations. The weapon covers Beyond Visual Range situations and in addition offers 2 guidance systems with its 2 interoperable seekers RF MICA with radar seeker providing all weather shoot-up / shoot down capability and IR MICA with dual waveband imaging infrared seeker surpassing latest generation AAM missiles. MICA outperforms other BVR missiles with its unique stealthy interception capability provided by its silent seeker. It Weighs 112 kg, is 3.1 m long and has a Diameter of 160 mm.

 SCALP is the air-launched long range, conventionally armed, deep strike weapon, designed to meet the demanding requirements of pre-planned attacks against high value fixed or stationary targets. Able to be operated in extreme conditions, the weapon offers operators a highly flexible, deep-strike capability based around a sophisticated mission planning system. SCALP has been put into operations with the Royal Air Force and the French Air Force in 2003 and was used in the Gulf, Iraq and Libya. The weapon is now in service with three other nations giving unrivalled deep strike capability. Storm Shadow / SCALP is operated from Tornado, Rafale, Mirage 2000 and in the future from Eurofighter Typhoon. Its Weight is 1300 kg, Length is 5.10 m and has a Range in excess of 250 km.

One cannot forget the July end excitement of an unconfirmed news that India had requested France to  purchase HAMMER missiles for the IAF Rafales and it was an emergency need. The HAMMER is a medium-range modular air-to-ground weapon designed for the French Air Force and the Navy. It a rocket- enabled precision missile with a range of 60 km perfectly suited for high altitude. It will be just perfect to target bunkers in mountainous terrains. Usable from greater and greater safety distances, with unrivaled ease of use, the air-to-ground modular weapon (AASM) “Hammer”, developed by Safran Electronics & Defense, enables extremely accurate strikes. The AASM is an autonomous unjammable interoperable modular device which utilizes leverages a range of guidance kits (INS/GPS, INS/GPS/Infrared and INS/GPS/Laser). The AASM has been tested in numerous recent theatres and delivers an excellent cost/effectiveness ratio.

2500 rounds/min NEXTER 30M791 30 mm internal cannon, available on both single and two-seaters. Intended for fighter aircraft such as the Dassault Rafale Nexter uses a new range of 30x150mm B ammunition in a variety of types. It has a muzzle velocity of 1,025 m/s (3,360 ft/s), which amounts to a muzzle energy of more than 94,000 ft-lb from the mass of the projectile alone (not taking into account explosive chemical energy). A selectable rate of fire allows cyclic rates of 300, 600, 1500, or 2500 rounds per minute. It can fire continuous bursts or controlled 0.5 or 1 second bursts.

The weapons would take less than a third of the fighter’s payload – the rest will be used to carry fuel to sustain the long range missions the fighter is required to perform. The Rafale can carry up to 9.5 tons of payload (21,000 lbs). To support  missions at extended ranges the fighter also carries three 524 gallons (2,000 litre) fuel tanks weighing additional 6.7 tons (14,700 lbs) that will top up the fighter’s internal fuel capacity of 4.7 t (10,300 lbs). These fuel tanks can also be used for ‘buddy refuelling’, further increasing the range and mission endurance of a Rafale-based strike force. And these together make Rafale a power to reckon.