After the Indian Air Force struck a Jaish-e-Mohammed camp in Balakot, about 80 km from the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Modi said, “Rafale fighters could have delivered even better results”. His reference was apparently to the stealth of Rafale, an air-dominance aircraft manufactured by French Dassault Aviation. Instead, the Indian Air Force deployed a dozen Mirage-2000 aircraft, made by the same company to hit the target. The Rafale is a Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) that is said to boost India’s air dominance exponentially, currently safeguarded by fighter jets like Russia made Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG 29, along with French Mirage-2000 and indigenously built HAL Tejas.
Here’s a look at the history and specifications of the Dassault Rafale to understand what makes this Fighter Jet so special for the Indian Air Force and why it could have delivered even better results in a strike like Balakot?
Rafale is a French word meaning “gust of wind” and is a French-origin Delta winged, twin-engine multirole fighter aircraft manufactured and designed by Dassault Aviation. The initial requirement of Rafale came into light in the mid-1970s, when both the French Air Force and Navy expressed a requirement for a new generation of fighters. In early ’80s Dassault was formally announced to build aircraft for the French government and the testing started in 1991. The production of the first aircraft series started in late 1992 but was suspended in 1995 due to political and economic uncertainty.
The production was restarted in 1997 after an initial order of 48 aircraft was placed by the Ministry of Defence followed by further order of 59 Rafale in 2004 and 60 aircraft in 2009. The French Air Force first operational Rafale squadron, EC 1/7 “Provence”, was stationed at Saint-Dizier airbase in 2006. Along with the French Military including Air Force and Navy, countries like Egypt and Qatar are the current operators of the Rafale MMRCA, while India will join the list this year itself.
the Rafale is a modern fighter jet known for its agility, speed, weapon holding capacity and attack capability. The Dassault Rafale has a delta wing design and is capable of g-forces as high as 11g (in case of emergency). The Rafale is available in both single and dual seating cabin (India ordered 28 single and 8 dual seaters Rafale). The Rafale is 15.27 meter long and a wingspan of 10.80 meters. The empty weight of Rafale ranges from 9900 kg to 10600 kg depending on the variant and maximum take-off weight of 24500 kg.