Why is India Already started upgrading Its Brand-New Rafale F3R fighter?

India gearing up for upgrading the fleet of its Rafale F3R fighter aircraft with India-specific enhancements, which would make them the most advanced Rafale in the world.

In the next three months, India will start upgrading the fleet of its Rafale F3R fighter aircraft with India-specific enhancements, which would make them more advanced, capable, and deadly.

France has already delivered 30 Rafale fighter jets to India (Rafale F3R standard), with the remaining six slated to arrive by April 2022 as part of a five-year inter-governmental agreement.

An Indian Air Force team is in France to assess the India-Specific Enhancements being carried in the aircraft RB-008 there. The upgrades would be installed in the plane in the next 12 to 15 months, top government sources told to India Today.

What makes Indian Rafale so deadly?

Indian Air Force currently operate the F3R version of Rafale, which is a bit different from the previous two versions of the aircraft built by Dassault. The 36 Rafale fighter jets procured by India will be the most potent Rafales to be manufactured ever. The Indian Rafale comes with a number of India-specific enhancements. These changes include:

  • Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) to enhance the Jets engine to operate in extreme temperatures
  • Doppler Weather Radar which informs the pilot of the weather ahead
  • Indian navigation system with SIGMA
  • Extra Filtered Oxygen Generation
  • Integration of Spice 1000 Smart Bombs & Astra missiles
  • Enhanced SPECTRA EW Suit
  • Quad Pack Ejectors for stand-off weapons
  • X Guard Fibre Optic Towed Decoy

These were some major changes specific to India. Apart from that, there are quite a few upgrades to:

  • More powerful radio altimeter
  • Radar warning receiver
  • Low band jammer
  • Flight data recorder
  • High-altitude engine start-up
  • Synthetic aperture radar
  • Ground moving target indicator and tracking
  • Infra-red search and track IRST)
  • Helmet-mounted display
  • Missile approach warning systems and very high-frequency range decoys

The deadliest feature of Rafale is the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Meteor air-to-air missile with a range in excess of about 150kms and no escape zone of 60km. as the Meteor is equipped with a two-way datalink, which allows the launch platform to provide updates on targets or re-targeting when the missile is in flight. It also notifies target acquisition by the seeker. The Meteor is installed with an active-radar target seeker, offering high reliability in detection, tracking, and classification that will change the air-to-air combat dynamics in this region. Its integration on the Rafale jets means IAF can hit targets inside both Pakistan and across the northern and eastern borders while staying within Indian airspace.

IAF Rafale equipped with Meteor and MICA AAM
IAF Rafale equipped with Meteor and MICA AAM

The tried and tested Scalp/ Storm Shadow, a long-range air-to-ground cruise missile with an excess of 300 kms is another nightmare for Indian adversaries and their airbases and hardened bunkers. The missile has a 2 metres precision which means that a target can be hit with high precision, at a longer range.

India has also placed an order of the French-built HAMMER missiles for Rafale jets that have the ability to destroy any target at the range of around 60-70 km.

The feature of Rafale which makes it such a potent fighter and distinctly ahead of many fighters of its generation is its SPECTRA – Self-Protection Equipment Countering Threats to Rafale Aircraft (already seen the capabilities when it’s shot down Su-35 in friendly air battle). It is termed as the cornerstone of Rafale’s outstanding survivability against the latest airborne and ground threats. It provides long-range detection, identification, and accurate localization of infrared homing, radiofrequency, and laser threats. The system incorporates a radar warning receiver, laser warning and Missile Approach Warning (MAW) for threat detection plus a phased array radar jammer and a decoy dispenser for threat countering.

Rafale with MICA, Meteor AAM and storm shadow cruise missile
Rafale with MICA, Meteor AAM and storm shadow cruise missile

The Rafale has 3 laser warning detectors – 2 under the cockpit and one at the top of the fin with 120-degree coverage. Rafale also has 2 infrared missile launch detectors at the top of the fin. The detectors have been designed to provide the Rafale fighter’s self-protection system (Spectra) with an advanced Missile Warning System (MWS) covering most of the sphere around the aircraft. In particular, it also provides the capability to detect MANPAD missiles. These capabilities enable the Rafale to have multi-spectral threat warning against hostile radars, missiles and lasers.

Apart from this it also provides superior situational awareness. Spectra has the capability to perform Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and Electronic Signal Intelligence (ELINT) missions.

Recently, an Indian Air Force pilot had that said Indian Rafale jets are more advanced and faster than their French counterparts!

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