With the beginning of induction of five Rafael Jets landing at Ambala Air Base, social media is abuzz with idiosyncrasies involved in either downplaying its political associations or equally appalling, to discredit its capabilities. While former is reflective of political polarization and related general Twitter jingoism, it is latter which raises eyebrows on motivated enemy narrative.
Interesting is former Air Chief BS Dhanoa’s scathing comment on China’s claim that his J-20 fighter aircraft were better than Rafael. His two pronged approach is based on fact that their J 20 is still on the Cannards (Used for fine-tuning aerodynamic balance however bad for the radar signature) as well as the aspect of J-20 lacking supercruise capability( ability that fighter jets can fly higher than M 1.0 (speed of sound) without using afterburns-reduces stealth again)
Above being correct, however we are falling prey to China-Pakistan propaganda of comparing Rafael and a supposed stealth aircraft, J20. Primarily we compare the two, and aspects related to their employment, based on two overlooked aspects related to Rafael.
Meteor vs PL-15 Missile
Do we need to talk about range?
Rafael’s meteor missile has a range of 150Km being out ranged by Chinese PL-15 missile. It is like comparing capacity of fuel tank viz torque (ofa sports car). If you can rev hard, do you need the fuel tank?
SPICE-2000 made headlines, when it was revealed that Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 fighters had used these weapons to bomb the terror camp in Balakot. SPICE, which is acronym for Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective, is a guidance and guided platform, manufactured by Israel. It is borne out of combination of inertial navigation, satellite guidance and electro-optical sensors for pinpoint accuracy. It implies the potency of already existing guidance electronics and sensor system.
Keeping up with stacking the technological momentum for IAF, France had shipped to India Meteor air-to-air missiles and Scalp cruise missiles, both of which will arm the Rafael.
While Chinese compatriot PL-15 is a simple rocket engine, featuring Dual Pulse Rocket Motor Propulsion System, copied from Russian R-33 missile system. Meteor is a state of art, one of the kind missile having ramjet, instead of a traditional rocket motor. What this implies that Meteor can throttle its engine during different phases of flight whereas a rocket delivers all of its potential energy in one continuous un-modulated burn cycle. Making it drastically increasing the size of the missile’s “no escape zone.” Basically, the Meteor has a far greater ability to “chase” and catch enemy aircraft over long ranges, whereas all the J-20 based PL-15 missile can at best shoot down slow moving targets, like a helicopter (don’t even think about apaches: pun intended).
Scalp uses a range of guidance options—GPS, inertial navigation, infra-red seeker and terrain reference. The Scalp also has a design that encourages stealth, by reducing exposure of its air intakes and flies at very low level to avoid radar detection. Scalp has been proven to be effective against “high-value” fixed targets such as air defence command-and-control centers and bunkers.
This is where Rafael stands, to give initial advantage, of neutralizing enemy’s eyes and ears.
Radar and Sensor Suite
Dassault Rafael is fitted with a RBE2-AA radar system which is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system derived from the Rafael’s RBE2 radar, with greater detection range of 200 km.
Whereas China, despite copying radar designs from Russians and Americans, are early and haphazard into AESA technology as compared to Europeans and Americans. Chinese have packed their radar with huge number of T/R modules to make for other imperfections of their radars.
Rafale incorporates a sleek design and stealthy intakes to reduce RCS. Dassault claims to have built the airframe with over 70% of it been composites. Whereas, China has been not able to justify J-20’s qualification as stealth or even a semi stealth aircraft. The J-20 has a long and wide fuselage and larger surface area is likely to reflect the radar signals at greater intensity. Moreover, its engine nozzles may expose the aircraft to radar.
It is highlighted, with the fact that India’s SU-30MKI (called also as mini AWACS) easily detected a under test J-20.
Where Rafael deeply enchants Indian Air Efforts against China. is Rafael’s ground breaking EW Suite in form of, SPECTRA system which carries out reliable long-range detection, identification and localization of threats, allowing the pilot to instantly select the most effective defensive measures based on combinations of radar jamming, infrared or radar decoying and evasive maneuvers. SPECTRA gives Rafael firing solution with 1% precision at 200 km. The comprehensive capability of SPECTRA regarding airborne threat localization is one of the keys of the Rafael’s superior situational awareness
While J-20 being stealth aircraft is a tall claim, Rafael by all means is irrespective to J-20.
Rafael jets have cold engine start capability, to operate from high-altitude bases including Leh, radar warning receivers, flight data recorders with storage for 10 hours of data, infrared search and track systems, low-band jammers, Israeli helmet-mounted displays and towed decoys to ward off incoming missiles.
What India banks upon is not pitching stealth against stealth, however to project an effective Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD), and take control of the airspace, for supporting Indian offensive, both against China and Pakistan.
Combining the Rafael’s aggressive situational awareness, along with low flying intruder capabilities and having infallible (China has no answer to) missiles in form of Meteor and Scalp missiles, India presents a deadly Air Superiority quotient.
Coordinated with that will be Su-30MKI thus emerged as a truly multirole aircraft which is poised to excell in all roles it will be allocated. From a bomber using the SPICE 2000, a ship hunter or strike fighter using the BrahMos, an AWACS hunter using the K-100 or an air superiority fighter using the R-27ER and R-77.
Use of Rafael, to coordinate the Air Space domination, is the essentials that India is looking forward to, and it is irrespective of whatever is J-20 to be employed for, if not sitting a grade above J-20, in a direct head to head spar.
This is the reason Pakistan and China are clamoring to stress their concerns, on regional Balance.
31 July 20/Friday Written By: Fayaz