India's long wait for the arrival of Rafale fighter jet will finally be over as the first batch of the French aircraft make a landing on Indian soil tomorrow. These three single-seat and two twin-seat Omni-role fighter aircraft will be flown by seven Indian Air Force pilots led by commanding officer group captain Harkirat Singh. The 5 fighter jets will touch down in Ambala airbase and be part of 17 Golden Arrows squadron on Wednesday.
The arrival of Rafale jets comes amid escalating border tension between India and China along the Line of Actual Control. Although China claims air superiority over India, the induction of Rafale fighter aircraft into the Indian Air Force could give India much-needed confidence to take on China's J20 5th generation aircraft.
As per IAF experts, Rafale holds major superiority over J20 in terms of engine, combat capabilities, higher weapon load, battle experience and lethal missile power. "Rafale is far superior to the J 20, the Chengdu fighter of China. Even though it's believed to be a 5th generation fighter it is probably at best a 3.5 generation aircraft. It's got a third-generation engine as we have in the Sukhoi," said Air Marshal R Nambiar (retd), who flight-tested the Rafale fighter jets for India.
Though stealth characteristics of the J20 are believed to be superior, its weapon system capabilities are no match to Rafale, say experts. They believe China going for Russian Su35 fighter shows J20's air capabilities are not at par with Rafale. "Su 35 is also no match to the Rafale. Capability to supercruise even with four missiles, stealth characteristics all put together make the Rafale far more potent than Su 35 also," Nambiar added.
The J20 uses the same engine as SU30 but the Rafale's engine is better in terms of "reliability, longevity and maintainability". Rafale's combat abilities are also much superior to the J20. Rafale is capable of carrying load up to 1.5 times its weight, giving it superiority to carry more ammunition than the J20. The biggest difference between Rafale and J20 is its "omni role" capability, which allows it to go out on at least four missions in one sortie. The J20, on the other hand, isn't able to carry out that many missions at one go.
Another big difference is the battle experience. Rafale is an extremely experienced aircraft, used widely in war missions in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. The J20 has no such experience. Last-minute additions to Rafale, including HAMMER, meteor, MICA and scalp missiles give it dominance over skies and superiority over the J20.
While meteor is a beyond visual range (about 150 km) air-to-air missile, the scalp is a long-range cruise missile with a range of 200 km. Both of these missiles can carry out deep strikes against the enemy aircraft and targets on land.
While the AIF will ensure pilots, ground crew and Rafale aircraft remain operationally ready as soon as Rafale lands in India, it also believes the new fighter can't be deployed along the border immediately. The Rafale will first be used extensively in Indian conditions in order to develop new tactics and operational capabilities.