New Delhi, July 23: With the Rafale jets arriving in the country in the middle of a dispute with China, the Indian Air Force is further boosting the capabilities of the combat aircraft by equipping it with the HAMMER missiles from France.
The order for the HAMMER standoff missiles with the capability to take out any types of targets at the range of around 60-70 km is being processed under the emergency powers for acquisition given to the armed forces by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
“The order for the HAMMER missiles is being processed and the French authorities have agreed to supply them to us at a short notice for our Rafale combat aircraft,” government sources told a wire agency
In view of the urgent requirement for these missiles by the Air Force, the French authorities would be delivering the systems to India from the existing stock meant for some other customer, they said.
HAMMER (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) is a medium-range air-to-ground weapon designed and manufactured for the French Air Force and Navy initially.
The HAMMERs would give India the capability to take out any bunkers or hardened shelters in any type of terrain including the mountainous locations such as Eastern Ladakh, the sources said.
An IAF spokesperson refused to confirm or deny the developments related to the new acquisition.
Five Rafale jets would be arriving in India from France on July 29 and their advanced weaponry including the long-range SCALP and Meteor missiles would have reached India before their touchdown.
The first five Rafale fighter aircraft would start arriving in India by July 29 flown by pilots of the 17 Golden Arrows commanding officer.
The delivery of the aircraft was earlier supposed to have been done by May end but this was postponed by two months in view of the COVID-19 outbreak in India and France.
The trainers will have the tail numbers of the RB series in honour of the Air Force Chief RKS Bhadauria who played a pivotal role in finalising India’s largest-ever defence deal for 36 Rafale combat aircraft.
The aircraft on their way from France to India would be refuelled by a French Air Force tanker aircraft in the air around Israel or Greece before they make a stopover in the Middle East. India had signed a deal worth over Rs 60,000 crore with France in September 2016 for 36 Rafales to meet the emergency requirements of the Indian Air Force.
Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria was the Deputy Chief of Air Staff at that time and headed the Indian negotiation team for the deal which is the biggest ever in monetary terms in India. Armed with the long-range Meteor air-to-air missiles and SCALP, the Rafale jets would give India an edge over both Pakistan and China in terms of air strike capability.
Sources said the air-to-air and the air-to-ground strike capabilities of the Rafale cannot be matched by both China and Pakistan and the aircraft would give India an edge over both the countries.