The Indian Air Force is boosting the capabilities of Rafale fighter jets, which are scheduled to arrive this month, with the HAMMER missiles from France, reported news agency ANI on Thursday (July 23). The first batch of five Rafale aircraft will be inducted on July 29 and are likely to be deployed in the Ladakh sector, an official statement had earlier said.
The report said the order for the HAMMER missiles is being processed under the emergency powers given to the armed forces amid border tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China. However, an IAF spokesperson refused to comment on this development, said the report that quoted sources to confirm the news.
Quoting government sources, it said that the French authorities have agreed to supply the missiles to India at a short notice for the Rafale combat jets. They reportedly said that the authorities will be supplying the missiles from their existing stock in view of the country’s urgent need. These will be taken from orders placed by some other customer.
The Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range (HAMMER) is a medium-range air-to-ground weapon capable of taking out targets at the range of around 60-70 kms, it further said. It was initially designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and the Navy.
Armed with HAMMERs, the new jets will be able to target bunkers and hardened shelters in mountainous terrains like eastern Ladakh, the report added. The eastern Ladakh region has been a conflict spot for the Indian and Chinese militaries that saw bloodshed and a standoff last month. Twenty Indian soldiers had died in a clash in that region in June.
In the wake of the standoff between Indian and Chinese troops, the government had given special powers to the armed forces to buy weapons up to ₹300 crore to meet the emergent operational requirements. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Earlier this week, an official statement had said that the IAF will be inducting its first batch of five Rafale jets at the Ambala air base on July 29 if weather permits. India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around ₹58,000 crore.
The Rafale fighter jets are capable of carrying a range of potent weapons. European missile maker MBDA’s Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile and Scalp cruise missile will be the mainstay of the weapons package of the Rafale aircraft. Meteor is the next generation of BVR air-to-air missile, designed to revolutionise air-to-air combat.
The weapon has been developed by the MBDA to combat common threats facing the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. It is powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor that gives it far more engine power for much longer than any other missile, said an official.
Besides the missile systems, the Rafale fighter aircraft will come with various India-specific modifications, including Israeli helmet-mounted displays, radar warning receivers, low-band jammers, 10-hour flight data recording, infrared search and tracking systems, it was earlier reported.