Rafale-M deal may happen during PM Modi's visit to France, how different is it from Rafale, why is it important?

Pankaj Prasad
Rafale M
Rafale M

Rafale M is the naval version of the Rafale fighter aircraft whose full name is Rafale Maritime.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to visit France on 13-14 July. The PM has been invited as the chief guest at the 'Bastille Day' parade ceremony on July 14, the national day of France. According to reports, during this visit PM Modi may announce a deal worth billions of dollars to buy 26 Rafale maritime fighter jets (Rafale M).

PM's visit to France after America can prove to be important for India's defense sector. Meanwhile, it is important to know that what is Rafael M? How different is it from Rafale planes? What is happening now regarding this? Let's know...

First know what is Rafale M?

Rafale M is the naval version of the Rafale fighter aircraft whose full name is Rafale Maritime. In fact, there are three major variants of the fighter aircraft – Rafale C single-seat ground-use variant, Rafale B two-seater ground-use variant and Rafale M single-seat carrier-based variant. Rafale M is manufactured by the French company Dassault Aviation.

What are the technical features?

Rafale M has a length of 15.27 m, height of 5.34 m and weighs 10600 kg. Its fuel capacity is 4700 kg. The maximum speed of the aircraft at high altitude is 1912 km/h, while at low altitude its speed is 1390 km/h. It has a range of 3700 km with three drop tanks. This aircraft can take off and land on a carrier.

It has more than 80 percent features from the Rafale received by the Indian Air Force. The savings on training, repair and maintenance due to fleet commonality led the Navy to prioritize these aircraft. The fighter jets will be equipped with state-of-the-art maritime systems, including maritime search radars capable of detecting submarines apart from warships.

What is happening with this now?

With just a week ahead of the Prime Minister's visit to France, the Defense Acquisition Board of the Defense Ministry is considering a deal to buy 26 Rafale-M jets. The Indian Air Force already has 36 Rafales which can be deployed at air bases on the ground. According to information, the Rafale M aircraft will be cheaper than the fighter jets purchased earlier by the Indian Air Force. These will be procured through government-to-government deals instead of taking the route of open tender.

Rafale M overtakes F-18

There was a tough competition between the French fighter aircraft Rafale and the American fighter aircraft F-18 to buy 26 fighter aircraft. Both these aircraft were extensively tested by a naval team in Goa. After the trial, the Navy informed the Defense Ministry that the Rafale-M was best suited for its requirements. In this way, Rafale M won the test and the Navy went ahead with its deal. In addition, Indian Navy officials were impressed with the capabilities of the Rafale-M during a joint exercise.

Why are these aircraft necessary for the Navy?

The Indian Navy was looking for a suitable fighter to replace its aging MiG 29Ks on the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. Its search ended with Dassault's Rafale Marine. At the same time, India is also working on a long-term plan to develop indigenous deck-based fighter aircraft in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

These twin-engine deck-based fighters have been designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency and will be manufactured by HAL. The aircraft was first showcased at Aero India in 2021. However, these will take a few years to be deployed. Therefore, the Navy decided to make an outright purchase to meet its short-term requirements.

What are the Rafale aircraft that have arrived before?

The Indian Air Force currently has 36 Rafale aircraft. This 4.5 generation aircraft purchased from France is one of the most advanced technology in the world and has the power to lick the dust of the enemy on any front of the war. Rafale is also called a multi-role fighter aircraft. That is, it can attack air-to-air and air-to-ground.

In December 2022, the last of the 36 Rafale aircraft purchased from France landed on Indian soil. This was the last aircraft delivery in 2016 for a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore. These aircraft are stationed at Hashimara in West Bengal and Ambala in Haryana.

Rafale was inducted into the Indian Air Force during the conflict with China and was deployed in Ladakh after coming to the country. The IAF has also inducted long-range Meteor air-to-air missiles as well as Scalp air-to-surface missiles. IAF has also added HAMMER missile to Rafale.