India asks France to deliver Meteor long range BVR missiles along with the First batch of Rafales!
India has asked France to arm the first four Rafale fighters with the top-notch Meteor air-to-air missiles, which, with a strike range of 120 to 150-km, can outgun any missile that can be unleashed by Pakistani or Chinese jets. The first Rafale fighters will touch down at the Ambala airbase in May next year.
“Earlier, as per the $8.7 bn (INR. 59,000 crore) deal inked for 36 Rafale jets and their weapon packages in September 2016, the progressive deliveries of the Meteor and the over 300-km range Scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles were to begin several months later,” said a source.
“But given the current operational situation with Pakistan and proven aerial superiority of Pakistan during the Feb 27 conflict over LOC, India has asked for faster delivery of Meteor missiles. France is examining the request,” he added.
IAF says the operational dynamics for achieving “air dominance” will change with the induction of the Rafales armed with the greater-range Meteor missiles powered by Ramjet engines to fly at Mach 4 speed. The Meteor missiles are arguably the best in the world for air combat duels, with “a greater no-escape zone” for hostile fighters than any comparable BVR weapon. Pakistan and China do not currently have any missile of this class in their combat inventories.
During the defence ministerial dialogue in October, France also offered Indian experts an opportunity to check the performance of the omni-role Rafale jets, which can also deliver nuclear weapons if required, “in an environment of high temperatures” at its military base in UAE.
An IAF induction team of pilots, engineers and technicians is currently undergoing training in France, which has so far handed over three Rafales to India. Once this training is over, the first four Rafales will head for India in May 2020. All the 36 jets will arrive in India by April 2022, with 18 each to be deployed at the Ambala and Hasimara airbases for the western and eastern fronts with Pakistan and China.
The Rafales, with a combat range of 780-km to 1,650-km depending on mission, come armed with a deadly weapons package, advanced avionics, radars and electronic warfare systems to prevent jamming by adversaries and ensure superior survivability in hostile contested airspace. Each Rafale, for instance, can also carry two fire-and-forget Scalp cruise missiles to hit high-value fortified targets well over 300-km away.