The decision to acquire Hammer missiles will help the IAF to press its newest induction ‘Rafale’ jets into operations amid the India-China tussle without any delay

Amid tension with China, the IAF has decided to boost its combat capabilities by procuring Hammer missiles to make Rafael fighter jet more lethal.

The last-minute decision to arm the Rafale jets with the Hammer missiles will allow the Indian Air Force (IAF) to press its newest induction into operations amid the India-China tussle without any delay, sources have said.

The earlier decided Spice-2000 bombs would require trials and integration with the fighter jets that would have delayed operational use.

The Rafale has earlier been used for air strikes in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria using the Hammer along with other missiles that will be available in the Indian version as the first batch of five jets lands in Ambala on July 29.

“Integration and trials of the Spice 2000 would take some time and delay the Rafale in being operationally ready. Keeping the current scenario in mind, it was decided to equip it with Hammer as it’s already been used in Rafale earlier,” said an official.

Sources said it doesn’t mean that the Spice has been replaced with the Hammer. The Israeli-made Spice 2000 was used by the Mirage fighter aircraft during the Balakot strikes on terror camps in Pakistan last year.

Both Spice and Hammer have different capabilities but the former cannot be used immediately since it’s not tested on the Rafale, sources said.

Hammer or Highly Agile and Manoeuvrable Munition Extended Range is a rocket-enabled air to ground precision missile that has range of 60 km perfectly suited for high altitude.

Officials say as the Rafale touches down in Ambala, it will be fully ready for operations.

“The pilots and the crew have been trained extensively at the Rafale. Since October last year till now many batches went to France to be trained at the Rafale,” said an official.

The Rafales will fly from France on Monday and will do a stopover in the UAE before landing in Ambala on Tuesday July 29. Other than the Hammer, that’s a last-minute addition, the fighter jet is armed with potent meteor and scalp missiles that will enhance air strike capabilities and air dominance of the Indian Air Force.

The meteor is a beyond visual range long air to air missile with a range of 150 km plus and Scalp is a long range cruise missile with a range of 200 km that can be launched from the aircraft for deep strikes to hit fixed and stationary targets in land or in waters.

It will also have the MICA missiles that can be used both for visual and beyond range air-to-air strikes.

The first batch of five Rafale jets will be in India on July 29 inducted at the Ambals Air Force Station subject to weather conditions, Indian Air Force has said.

The final induction ceremony will take place in the second half of August 20.

“IAF aircrew and ground crew have undergone comprehensive training on the aircraft, including its highly advanced weapons systems and are fully operational now. Post arrival, efforts will focus on operationalisation of the aircraft at the earliest,” the IAF said.

Thirty-six jets comprising two squadrons will be part of the Indian Air Force in the next two years.

While the first squadron will be operational from Amabala on the Western sector, the other one will come up in Hashimara in West Bengal to combat the Chinese threat.

There are many India specific enhancements that have been carried out and Indian Air Force personnel trained with the French on several aspects like operations and maintenance.

In a government to government agreement in 2016 India decided to buy 36 Rafales from France at a cost of Rs. 59,000 crore. This triggered a political storm with the opposition accusing the government of striking the deal at an inflated price.