Indian Defence Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh ceremonially inducted the first of the thirty-six nuclear capable Rafale fighter jets at the Merignac air base in France. With this, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is all set to get the much desired combat edge and technological superiority over its adversaries. All militarily advanced nations endeavour to achieve superiority over the entire spectrum of conflict, be it in the conventional, strategic or non-conventional domains of warfare.
At a time when India is continuously getting nuclear threats from the leadership of an immediate neighbouring country; even at the UN General Assembly, the induction of Rafael will definitely boost the country’s defence capabilities. It needs to be mentioned that the ever increasing weapon acquisition programmes of potential adversaries and emergence of new military technologies around the world has necessitated Indian strategists to constantly plan and upgrade the country’s military arsenals. It is under this backdrop the urgency of procurement of a nuclear capable multi-role fighter jet was felt.
In a gruelling selection process, the IAF tested six foreign fourth generation plus fighters. During the process, IAF had listed 600 parameters with 590 being the passing mark. Anything less than that would not have made the Rafale pass the rigorous test. Rafale is a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) which will boost India’s air dominance exponentially, currently safeguarded by fighter jets like Russian made Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG 29, along with the French Mirage-2000 and indigenously built HAL Tejas.
Rafale is a fully versatile aircraft that can carry out all combat aviation missions to achieve air superiority and air defence, close air support, in-depth strikes, reconnaissance and nuclear deterrence. Experts feel that Rafale will be a ‘Game Changer’ for Indian Air Force as it has the capability that no enemy can interfere in its’ air operations. In spite of threat perception from the neighbouring country, India believes in peace and for this purpose, the policy of deterrence should be maintained. Defence Minister, Mr. Rajnath Singh’s speech at the induction ceremony is the reflection of this position. He said, Rafael marks a massive enhancement to the Indian Air Force’s combat capability but that enhancement is not for attack purposes but as a deterrent. In fact, military power is meant to avoid war and not to perpetuate it. Military capability is built to deter the adversary from any misadventure.
In any future conflict, air power will certainly play a leading role. The effectiveness, long reach, precision weapon delivery at stand-off ranges gives air power credible deterrence capability.More importantly, the considered political objective of any country could be achieved through the optimal use of air power. The air strikes at the Balakot terrorist training camp in last February is a classic example of air power being utilized to achieve a political objective. It is imperative to build a robust IAF to achieve credible deterrence capability for India.
It is also necessary to replace the retiring fighter squadrons in a very short period of time. Fighter aircrafts cannot be purchased off-the-shelf. The procurement process is time consuming and difficult to compress. The manufacturing processes involve integrating numerous parts and expensive raw material which are not held in bulk. As a consequence, the decision making time at the political level has to be reduced for maintaining the required combat potential of the Air force.
The government’s decision to go for direct purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft, in a period of 36 months, is indeed path breaking. The induction of the Rafale will greatly enhance the operational capability of the air force. In addition, Rafale would also give a substantial boost to the IAF’s combat potential and add value to overall military deterrence to avoid any future conflict.
Script: Uttam Kumar Biswas, Defence Analyst