Dassault Rafale ; the 4.5 Gen Fighter aircraft |In-depth analysis

India has finally received the first five Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft out of the total 36 Rafales that are yet to be received,after the wait of almost 12 years of procurment process to get the India’s first MMRCA (Medium Multi-role Combat Aircraft),.This aircraft has caught so much attention because it had seen many controversies about its procurement. Initially, there was a plan to buy 126 Rafale in 2012 by the UPA government, the deal which never got finalised. Thus, in 2017 a new deal was inked by then Defence Minister Late Manohar Parriker for the procurement of 36 Rafales.

They took the historic flight from the Merignac airbase at Bordeaux in France.Making a first halt at Al-Dafra Airbase, UAE.Five Rafales also took the mid-air refueling over Mediterranean sea & finally covered the distance of 7,000 km from France to the city of Ambala in India.

These Five Rafales include three single-seater and two twin-seater aircraft.

The first five Rafales will be inducted in No.17 Squadron Golden Arrows of the IAF at AFS Ambala .

Dassault Rafale gives Indian Air Force the cutting edge over Chinese Chengdu J20 (which China claim to be a Fifth generation fighter aircraft) and Pakistan’s F-16s & JF-17s. This jet offers multi-role capability with advanced avionics and can operate in electronic warfare situations providing air support, ground support .With reduced electric signatures and infra-red cross-section, it can easily go behind enemy lines without being detected .

Getting Rafales just months after receiving Chinooks and Apaches is perceived by the media to be a strong message to China after the Galwan valley bloody face-off, in which India lost 20 Indian Army bravehearts while China lost more than 34 soldiers as disclosed by many international media outlets (although Chinese never disclosed the numbers).

Dassault Rafale

Dassault Rafale is a Twin engine, Canard Delta wing, Medium Multi-role combat aircraft manufactured and designed by Dassault Aviation. Rafales are combat proven and used by French & Egypt air force for missions in Central African Republic, Sudan, Syria , Afghanistan, Libya, Mali & Iran.

It is powered by twin Snecma M88-2 engines which produces a dry thrust of 50 KN (11,000 Pound-Force) and thrust of 75KN (17,000 Pound-Force) with afterburners active.These powerful engines are manufactured by Safran Industries exclusively for Dassault Rafale.

Why Rafale ..?

  • Nuclear Payload carrying capacity
  • 14 hard points
  • max take off weight – 24,500 kgs
  • rate of climb is 60,000 ft/min
  • MBDA Missiles
  • no “terms and conditions “(as with F-21)
  • Transfer of Technology
  • less expense repairs and spare parts

It can surpass ‘double the speed of the sound’ and offers the top speed of 1.8 Mach i.e around 2222 kmph.

Key Specifications of Dassault Rafale

It can fly at an altitude of 50,000 Ft along with all its weapons quite comfortably.In addition, it also offers the range of 3,700 kms. With better avionics ,AESA Radar, maneuverability, fuel efficiency, multi role functions, agility it has become the most advance fighter jet in the subcontinent.The only aircrafts in the world better than Rafales are some 5th gen combat aircraft like F-22 Raptor of USA.

Dassault Rafale is designed with advanced avionics having multirole capability and it is designed with the reduced Radar Cross Section (RCS) and infra-red signatures. It can carry the weights 1.5 times of its own weight with far better fuel efficiency than the J20.

Rafale had been selected by the Indian government mainly because of its Reliability, longevity & maintainability.Further, IAf has acquired Rafales because of their in-depth strike and stealth capabilities. Aditionally, Rafales already posses combat experience unlike the Chinese Chengdu J20 claimed to be Fifth gen .

This aircraft has multi-directional radar which can detect at 40 different targets at the same time in a range of over 10 km.It also has Towed Decoy system to thwart incoming missiles.

Cock-pit :

Rafale’s Cockpit

The cock-pit of Dassault Rafale posses Hands-on-Throttle and stick control (HOTAS) having throttle on left hand and a stick control on the right.It is equipped with Heads-up, wide angle, holographic display supplied by Thales avionique.

Aircraft mission data & system parameters are displayed by the two lateral touchscreens.Where as the pilot has helmet mounted sight & a display.A CCD camera and on-board recorder is also present in the cock-pit, which records the images of the heads-up display through out the mission.

Weapons it carries :

Rafales carry advance A2A Beyond Visual Range missiles like Meteor.This 190 kg missile offers :

  • BVR (beyond visual range) strike capability upto the range of 100 km.
  • Can travel with the speed of Mach4 .
  • Mid-way acceleration to counter target effectively
  • 60 km No Escape zone

This missile is the appropriate answer to the AIM 120 AMRAAM Missiles used by the Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets, which only offers the BVR of 75km.

Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missile

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Its long strike capabilities are supported by the SCALP missile which offers the strike capability up to the range of 300 km.Thus, blessing the Rafale with the in-depth strike capability.And as India has already changed its stance to pre-emptive strikes like it did after Uri, Pulwama and Manipur terrorist attacks, induction of Rafale’s will definitely be going to strengthen India’s capabilities to do that quite swiftly.

Moreover, as volatile situation are seen along the borders, Indian side has asked for HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) Medium Range Air to ground missiles.This missile could be used for targets below 100 km and offers a cutting edge during the dog-fights.

Hammer Missil
If we talk about components of M88-2:

M88-2 is cylindrical in shape. 353.8cm in length and 69.6cm in diameter making it one of the super-compact jet engines. The dry weight of M88-2 is 897 kg around twice the weight of the engine of Bugatti.

It is packed with an axial 3-stage LP and 6-stage HP compressor.Annular combustors for non-polluting combustion and 1-stage LP & 1-stage HP single-crystal turbine blades, powder metallurgy disks, and technology to reduce radar and infrared signatures.Coming to performance this marvelous hunk is capable of delivering a maximum thrust of 50kN and 75kN (with afterburner).

Fuel consumption is limited. 3,977 kg/h which is much lesser than other jet engines.Turbine inlet temperature reaches up to 1,850 kelvins but this needs not to be worried.

The power of M88-2 allows Rafale to super cruise while carrying four missiles and one drop tank. The engines which are comparable to M88-2 are EJ200, GTRE GTX-35VS Kaveri, and Guizhou WS-13.

What are Fighter jet generations ?

These are the technological advancement received by the fighter aircraft through out the generations of aircraft coinciding with the decades they were manufactured in.They are divided as :

1.First Generation Fighter Aircraft :

These aircraft were the first attempts to design and manufacture a fighter aircraft using jet engines that can participate in the war.Out of those few were developed and some participated during the end of the World War II.Examples are : Gloster Meteor and F-86 jets.

2.Second Generation Fighter Aircraft :

Second generation fighter aircraft were developed during mid 1950s and early 1960s.The changes it went from its predecessor were aeronautical developments like Area ruled Fuselage, Swept wings & Delta wings.They were the first aircraft to break the sound barrier as they used the after -burners to improve the thrust.

3.Third Generation Fighter Aircraft :

These include upgrades like operability at Supersonic speed, Pulse Radar and gifted with weapons that can shoot targets at Beyond visual range (BVR).They were developed during early 1960s and 1970s.Its prominent upgrades were its maneuverability and developed capabilities of ground attack.It replaced the steam gauged cock-pit instrumentation with Analog Avionics.

4.Fourth Generation Fighter Aircraft :

These upgrades has convinced the Russians to designate the aircraft with such upgrades as the 4.5 generation fighter aircraft like the Rafales we are getting.

These fighter aircraft were in operation from 1980 to the present day.It saw the introduction of Fly-by-wire Flight control systems.Analog avionics were replaced by Digital flight control systems.This generation of the aircraft has got the upgrades like AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array), Infra-red search & track and Digital Avionic Buses.Further , it offered Pulse doppler radar, look down capability, shoot down missiles, improved agility, sensor fusion, high maneuverability with reduced signatures i.e improvement in stealth features.Some additional features to the existing 4th Gen are Super-cruise, continued reduced signatures or active stealth (Waveform cancelling),

All things said, we expect that the delivery of remaining 31 Dassault Rafales we will get soon with all the munition the country requires to deter the enemies.This addition of beautiful birds possessing powerful engines will definitely be seen as a milestone in the future.

Last but not the least, it is रफाल & not रफेल .

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