Rafale Deal: A Masterstroke


By Aayushi from Invertis Institute of Law, Invertis University, Bareilly


After 8 years of high drama, Rafale has been handed over to India. The five Rafale fighter jets that landed in Ambala will resurrect the Number 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force.

Timeline of the deal:

December 30, 2002: Defence Procurement Procedures (DPP) adopted to streamline procurement.

August 28, 2007: Ministry of Defence issues Request for Proposal for procurement of 126 MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) fighters.

September 4, 2008: Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance group incorporates Reliance Aerospace Technologies Ltd (RATL).

May 2011: Air Force shortlists Rafale and Eurofighter jets.

January 30, 2012: Dassault Aviation’s Rafale aircraft comes up with the lowest bid.

March 13, 2014: Work Share agreement signed between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Dassault Aviation under which they were responsible for 70 per cent and 30 percent of the work, respectively, for 108 aircraft.

January 26, 2016: India and France sign MoU for 36 Rafale aircraft.

November 18, 2016: Government states in Parliament that the cost of each Rafale aircraft to be approximately Rs 670 crore and that all aircraft will be delivered by April 2022.

December 31, 2016: Dassault Aviation’s Annual Report reveals the actual price paid for the 36 aircrafts at about Rs 60,000 crore, more than double the government’s stated price in Parliament.

March 13, 2018: Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in SC seeks independent probe into Centre’s decision to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets and disclosure of the cost.

September 5, 2018: SC agrees to hear PIL seeking stay on Rafale fighter jet deal.

October 10, 2018: SC asks Centre to provide details of the decision making process in the Rafale fighter jet deal in a sealed cover.

November 12, 2018: Centre places price details of 36 Rafale fighter jets in a sealed cover before SC. It also gives details of steps that led to finalisation of the Rafale deal.

November 14, 2018: SC reserves order on pleas seeking court-monitored probe in Rafale deal.

December 14, 2018: SC says there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets and dismissed the petitions seeking an investigation into alleged irregularities in the Rs 58,000 crore deal.

January 2019: Former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, advocate Prashant Bhushan, AAP MP Sanjay Singh moves SC seeking review of Rafale verdict.

February 26, 2019: SC decides to hear pleas seeking review of Rafale verdict in open court.

March 6, 2019: Documents related to Rafale deal stolen from Defence Ministry, Centre tells SC.

March 8, 2019: Attorney General clarifies that Rafale documents not stolen, petitioners used photocopies.

April 10, 2019: SC allows use of leaked documents, dismisses Centre’s objections claiming privilege.

May 4, 2019: Centre filed reply in SC related to the review petition filed against the SC order of 14 December and submitted all the pricing details related to the Rafale deal to CAG.

May 10, 2019: SC reserved its verdict on review petitions.

July 29, 2020: Five Rafale landed in Ambala

Competitors of Rafale:

Military had to replace hundreds of obsolete IAF MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27 fighters that had been steadily retired from service by the indigenous Tejas fighter.

But as the fighter’s development got delayed, the then government in 2007, ordered a global tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, of which 108 would be built in India by public sector firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Over the next four years, the IAF flight-tested six fighters:

  • Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet,
  • Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Super Viper,
  • Saab’s Gripen C/D,
  • Russian MiG-35,
  • Eurofighter’s Typhoon,
  • Rafale.

In 2011, the Typhoon and the Rafale were found to have met the Indian Air Force (IAF’s) performance requirements.

In January 2012, Dassault’s bid was declared lower than Eurofighter’ and the Rafale became India’s combat aircraft of choice.

The  Rafale outranks contemporary fighters—except Lockheed Martin’s F-35—in most parameters of operational capabilities, safety features and ease of operation/ training/ maintenance. The Rafale gives ‘bang for the buck’, if its entire life cycle performance is considered. If our experience with the Mirage 2000 from the Dassault stable can be a guideline, there should be little doubt about the Rafale’s contractual obligations being proven in performance.

Military had to replace hundreds of obsolete IAF MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27 fighters that had been steadily retired from service by the indigenous Tejas fighter.

But as the fighter’s development got delayed, the then government in 2007, ordered a global tender for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, of which 108 would be built in India by public sector firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

In aviation technology jargon, the IAF’s last major acquisition, the Russian-origin Su-30MKI fighter, could be termed as a fourth generation aircraft. The Rafale, on the other hand, could be considered a fighter of the 4.5 to fifth generation. The Rafale is streets ahead of the Su-30MKI with much smaller radar and infra-red signatures, making it harder to detect. Its electronic warfare systems allow for greater ranges of detection and neutralisation of threats. The Rafale offers a substantial increase in radius of action in air-to-air as well as air-to-ground roles, greater weapons load and more wing and fuselage stations (14 in total) to carry weapons and fuel tanks.

The Rafale has multi-sensor ‘data fusion’, which is the ability to collate and process information from multiple sensors to give the pilot a consolidated air situation ‘map’. The data fusion capability is based on the Rafale’s RBE-2 radar, front sector optronics (FSO) detection system, the SPECTRA electronic warfare suite and other systems.

SPECTRA provides a terrific enhancement to the IAF’s ability to operate in highly ‘dense’ hostile environments where there is a heavy presence of anti-aircraft radars and weapons. SPECTRA not only allows the Rafale to detect and localise a threat against the aircraft, but also selects the most effective countermeasures against it.

The RBE-2 radar is capable of conducting engagement of beyond-visual-range targets at distances beyond 100km. It is also capable of real-time generation of 2D and 3D maps for ultra low level flying in ‘absolute’ blind conditions, which is otherwise well nigh impossible. 

The long-range radar-guided Meteor air-to-air missile, which will arm the Rafale, will give the aircraft air dominance. The Meteor offers unique features such as a two-way datalink—it allows the aircraft to transmit target updates to the weapon after it is fired—and a ramjet propulsion system that enables neutralisation of even very fast-moving targets at very long ranges. The Meteor’s ‘no escape zone’—zone in which an aircraft cannot rely on mere agility to evade a missile—is thrice that of the current US-made AIM-120 AMRAAM missile.

In addition to weapon systems and sensors, the Rafale will provide the IAF a huge leap forward in ease of maintenance. This includes the capability to replace engines in a matter of hours, as opposed to the couple of days required to do the same for Russian aircraft. The Rafale comes with an integrated logistics support module that allows for monitoring of aircraft ‘health’ and usage, along with built-in testing facilities.

As it is an easier aircraft to maintain than the Su-30MKI, the Rafale’s downtime is substantially lower; it can launch a greater number of sorties over a uniform period of time. The Rafale’s automatic engine control system is highly reliable; it controls engine operation in case of malfunctions or damage in flight.

Specifications of Rafale:

  • Rafale can attain a maximum speed of Mach 1.8/750 kt (2,222.6 km per hour) and can climb up to 50,000 ft.
  • Though Rafale can fly up to a range of 3,700 km, it can be refuelled mid-air.
  • The 15.27 metre long aircraft has wing length of 10.8 metres each.
  • While Sukhoi 30 MKI can carry ammunition up to 8,000 kg, Rafale can easily carry bombs up to 9,500 kg.
  • Rafale can carry out all combat aviation missions, including air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance, anti-ship strikes and nuclear deterrence.
  • Its ‘delta wings‘ are extremely stable and have supersonic speed.
  • Rafale’s cannon can release over 2,500 rounds in one minute.
  • The aircraft’s advanced engine is capable of allowing the throttle to shift from combat to idle power in less than three seconds.
  • It can jam enemy radars, detect targets anywhere including sea, ground and air.
  • Other superior capabilities include close air support, dynamic targeting, air-to-ground precision strike, anti-ship attack capability and buddy-buddy refuelling.
  • The advanced Rafale aircraft can carry a nuclear weapon, and deploy long range air-to-air missiles, laser-guided bombs with different warheads and non-guided classic bombs.

In conclusion , it is safe to say that apart from a few minor setbacks this deal will prove to be highly advantageous for the Indian Air force and India at large.








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