The five Rafale fighter jets that land in Ambala on Wednesday morning will resurrect the Number 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Indian Air Force. It will take the IAF’s squadron strength to 31. When all the 36 Rafale jets are delivered by 2022, it will take it to 32 squadrons, still well below the 42 squadrons of the sanctioned strength.
The state-of-the-art 4.5 Generation Rafale jet can reach almost double the speed of sound, with a top speed of 1.8 Mach. With its multi-role capabilities, including electronic warfare, air defence, ground support and in-depth strikes, the Rafale lends air superiority to the Indian Air Force.
While China’s J20 Chengdu jets are called fifth generation combat jets, compared to 4.5 generation Rafale, the J20 have no actual combat experience. Whereas the Rafale is combat proven, having been used by the French Air Force for its missions in Afghanistan, Libya and Mali. It has also been used for missions in Central African Republic, Iraq and Syria. Rafale can also carry more fuel and weapons than the J20.
Each aircraft has 14 storage stations for weapons. The jets come with one of the most advanced Meteor air-to-air missiles. The 190-kg missile has a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) of over 100 km, traveling at a top speed of Mach 4. The F16 jets, used by Pakistan, carry the AMRAAM missile, which has a BVR of 75 km. Rafale can also outperform F16 in dogfights.