NEW DELHI: French Rafale’s win in the multi-billion dollar contract for medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) is set to change the age-old dominance over Indian skies by Russian jets. The French mean machines will be the mainstay of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the decades to come.
Presently, about 70 per cent of IAF inventory comprises of Soviet-vintage MiG series aircraft and the Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets. For long, the force has been grappling with depleting fighter strength owing to the crashing of ageing fleet of MiG-21s and the ever-elusive indigenous combat jet and therefore had to put up with the lack of a thorough after sales support from the Russians.
“Our dealing with French in the recent past, especially after the Mirage acquisition is point of high confidence. Mirage has an impeccable safety record and it has sustained high serviceability requirements,” said former IAF Vice-Chief Air Marshal P K Barbora.
The twin-engine 4.5 generation (based on 1980s designs) Rafale will change the face of the fourth largest air force in the world. Already, the fighter jet has proved its mettle by outdoing its Russian contender in fray, the MiG-35, and it will replace the obsolete MiG-21 fleet of the IAF. Rafale -- deemed by French as the solution for all Air Force in the world for being capable of air-to-air, air-to-surface and carrier-based missions -- will give the IAF a capability of performing greater roles with the same number of platforms.
“I have no doubts that Rafale will make IAF a potent air force capable of carrying all sorts of operations in the future that we envisage as the aircraft will be able to switch roles either mid-air or on the ground,” Barbora added.