The Rafale after arrival at the Ambala airbase

On July 29, amid COVID-19 pandemic, Rafale fighter jets landed in India from France, travelling almost 8,500 km. Let's look at some of the capabilities that Rafale brings to the table.

Air-to-Air Combat Potential of Rafale

Rafale is equipped with AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar and frontal infra-red search and track (IRST) sensor. What is an AESA in a nutshell? It is nothing but a non-moving radar whose beams are electronically steered through small modules called TR (Transmit Receive) modules.

Since non-rotating equipment, its failure rate is very low. Since using TR modules, it can vary parameters in a manner that its performance in dynamic situations will be far better. IRST is a passive system that looks for hot objects both on ground and in air, currently there is no counter measure to IRST.

Using AESA Radar and IRST Rafale employs two potent missiles to shoot down enemies very far, namely MICA & METEOR missiles. They have very high ranges nearly 80+ km for MICA and 100+ km for METEOR. To put things in perspective, Pathankot to Gujranwala is less than 100 km.

Air-to-Ground Combat Potential

Rafale carries varied air-to-ground munitions. SCALP EG missile with multispectral sensor to guide itself to the target accurately and with a range of 560 km. To put things in perspective, Pathankot to Islamabad or Sargodha is only 280 km.

It will carry HAMMER missiles, six of them which have a range of 50-80 km and can target bunkers and dig in position, six at a time and all independently targeting different targets.

It can carry Paveway Laser Guided Bombs, MK82/84 1000/2000 lbs unguided bombs and rockets.

It will carry Spice-2000 weapon famous for bombing Balakot to smithereens which will be an engagement as part of India-specific modifications.

Electronic Warfare Suite

Rafale has inbuilt jammers to jam enemy’s airborne and surface-based sensors. It has a potent radar warning receiver and countermeasure dispensing system which automatically dispenses counter measures to counter enemy’s radar and weapons. It also warns pilots of threat from enemy radar and missiles.

Stealth Features

Though not a pure stealth aircraft, Rafale has exceptional stealth features like composite structures, blended design, radar absorbent material and automatic emission control to control own sensors. Attack on Al-Watiya air base with spectra coordination is case in point.


Naysayers need to understand these capabilities are rolled in one fighter that can engage the enemy effectively. To put things in perspective, when the Kargil war happened, India had only three Mirage 2000 jets and only 12 in air-to-ground role. These engaged 80% of the targets and gave India Tiger Hill, Muntho Dhalo on a platter. Rafale is a game changing fighter which will change the way we fight.