The SCALP / Storm Shadow

India is inching towards the final steps of procuring a formidable armament, showcased compellingly in the Ukraine conflict. The French SCALP cruise missile – known as the Storm Shadow in England – that succeeded in annihilating a Russian submarine and made a significant impact on the Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters, is anticipated to equip the 26 Dassault Rafale-Marine [Rafale-M] fighter jets.

As reported by ET, insider sources in India reveal ongoing discussions between New Delhi and Paris over the armament of the Rafale-M. Evidently, the French contingent appears to be unopposed to equipping Indian combat aircraft to become a formidable force in Asia.

Ludovic Dumont, the esteemed General Delegate of MBDA India, has announced with assurance that his company is prepared to supply India with its advanced missile system. Set to supersede some of the older MiG-29Ms still in operation, the Rafale-M stands as a fresh addition to their naval arsenal. Moreover, India’s recently commissioned aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, is ready to accommodate 26 of these state-of-the-art French fighter jets.

What Will SCALP Guarantee?

It’s no coincidence that the Indian Ministry of Defence is showing interest in equipping their Rafale fighter jets with SCALPs, especially given the platform they will be launched from.

The French Rafales boast the ability to carry two SCALP missiles. In contrast, the Rafale-M has a payload restriction, limiting it to a solitary SCALP unit. Despite this limitation, the use of an aircraft carrier as the launch pad for a Rafale-M extends its range, surpassing that of a Rafale on land. This terrestrial Rafale is further limited in range by the necessity of avoiding proximity to the ‘presumed front line’.

Despite its limitations, the Rafale-M combined with the aircraft carrier’s range becomes capable of striking any adversarial target. When considering potential targets, it’s particularly pertinent to refer to nations like Pakistan or China.

The Indian Rafale-M Is Special

You have India, anxiously seeking ways to hold its own against China. Why? China is swiftly amassing an impressive arsenal, complete with aircraft carriers and fighter jets. All the while, New Delhi is left scrambling for options.

Interestingly, a majority of China’s fighter jets, J-20 being the exceptional case, are modelled after the Soviet Su-30. These aircraft are not just heavy but also incredibly versatile and well-equipped. The balance of power is certainly tipping towards Beijing, and India is acutely aware of it.

This is the reason why New Delhi favoured the Rafale over the American F/A-18 Super Hornet. The US did not grant the permissions that France did. Specifically, the Indian Rafales have the capacity for “nuclear delivery”. In other words, these aircraft are designed to carry nuclear weapons.

The French authorities gave all required permissions and adjustments for incorporating nuclear weapons. This provides a substantial upgrade to the fleet: the capacity to launch long-range nuclear warhead cruise missiles. When combined with the might of an aircraft carrier, which essentially acts as a movable airfield, this allows us to project power straight into the Pacific.

According to resources from India, two key operational features significantly enhance the Indian Rafale’s functionality: a potent optical system capable of detecting stealth aircraft and a nuclear delivery capability. These components are particularly vital in the event of a confrontation with the Chinese Navy.

The SCALP cruise missile, also known as Storm Shadow in the United Kingdom, is a long-range, air-launched cruise missile developed by France and the United Kingdom. It is designed to strike high-value targets with pinpoint accuracy.

The SCALP cruise missile has impressive technical characteristics. It has a length of approximately 5.1 meters and a wingspan of around 3 meters. The missile weighs about 1,300 kilograms and is powered by a turbojet engine, which allows it to reach speeds of up to Mach 0.8. It has a range of over 250 kilometers, enabling it to engage targets at a significant distance from the launch aircraft.

One of the key features of the SCALP cruise missile is its warhead. The missile is equipped with a 450-kilogram blast-fragmentation warhead, which is designed to inflict significant damage on its intended target. The warhead is capable of penetrating hardened structures, making it highly effective against fortified targets.