Why would Pakistan be scared of Rafale more than Su-30MKI?
Dassault Rafale is seriously a niche platform serving Indian Air Force’s need for bolstering its Strike Capabilities as well as serving as a medium for Airborne Strategic Delivery System for Indian Nuclear Weapons. This has made Rafale, to take its own part in the Indian Air Force’s strategy to cope with a potential Two-Front War in the future bolstering Indian Air Force’s Technological Asymmetry against its adversaries in the end.
However, what completely undermines the Rafales of the Indian Air Force are the numbers. Indian Air Force will be inducting just 36 Rafales which will not offer any significant advantage to Indian Air Force in terms of numbers or quality either when Pakistan in the similar time frame was inducting a large number of much lesser capable Aircraft like JF-17 Block-1/2 (more than 100 in service) and Mirage III/V ROSE. Joseph Stalin once rightfully asserted: “Quantity has a quality all its own.”.
Rafale has been inducted in Indian Air Force to take up the mantle of the older Mirage-2000 and Jaguars as a Delivery Medium for Indian Air Force’s Nuclear Weapons as Rafale is touted to be more suited for the job compared to the Mirage-2000/Jaguars who required serious airframe revamps and modifications to fit the job. Rafale in future might take up further jobs as well like carrying out Deep Strikes like what we saw in Balakot Episode when Mirage-2000 took the mantle of delivering Precision Weapons upon Terror Targets and also supporting Aerial Combat especially with its Meteor Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile which can take on targets at 300 km range enforcing a 100 km radius of No-escape Zone.
On a one-on-one, Rafale completely outclasses any Pakistani Fighter Jet like JF-17 or F-16, but Pakistan over the year have added some serious firepower in its arsenal. Although half of PAF’s inventory consisting of F-7P/PG and MIRAGE-III/V can be considered obsolete in the strictest sense (where even India’s Mirage-2000 and Mig-21, albeit with all upgrades are considered vintage), Pakistan had a lot of success in inducting home-grown fighters like JF-17, which are easily upgraded over time and equip over 6 Squadrons of PAF, along with Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems in form of Saab 2000 and Shaanxi ZDK-03 Karakoram Eagle which has nullified India’s Strike edge to some extent.
Pakistan today operates more AWACS than India, even when India is engaged at two fronts and is geographically more vast than Pakistan. This has lent Pakistan a significant advantage especially when the trend of modern warfare is towards Information Interchange than Kinematics, especially since its Fighter Jets can now exchange information with each other and take on targets with much more confidence and better strategies, a fact which was quite visible during the 27th February India-Pakistan Aerial Conflict.
So has Indian Air Force strength blunted in front of a more aggressive Pakistan?
No. Even though the Indian Air Force did not buy any new Combat Fighter Jet in recent times with the latest addition to be the Su-30MKI which is a Two-Decades Platform now and HAL Tejas which is still to fulfil a Squadron Strength, Indian Air Force has significantly invested in other platforms.
Indian Air Force will be soon getting S-400 Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile Systems which can be used to target Long Range Bombers, Strategic Airlifters, AWACS Aircrafts and Fighter Jets and is now investing in a string of homegrown and Foreign Air-to-Air Missiles like Astra Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile going in limited production now, ASRAAM Within Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile for Tejas and Meteor for Tejas. Along with it, the recent induction of indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems like Netra has also shown that IAF will further bolster its AWACS fleet in the near future. Indian Air Force’s wish for technological asymmetry will not come only by means of Rafale but also other combat assets like Missiles, AWACS, Radar Systems and Air Defence Systems.
In a potential war, Su-30MKI, and not Rafale, will be a serious headache for Pakistan Air Force since Su-30MKI will be tasked to enforce a complete Air Superiority over Pakistani Air Space which will directly bring Pakistan into loggerheads with India. Indian Air Force now fields more Su-30MKI than any other combat platform with IAF (more than 250 Su-30MKI are in service) and it outclasses any other aircraft with India and Pakistan in terms of versatility. These aircraft can enforce an air superiority over the enemy airspace within hours of an aerial conflict, after which they can act as Strike Aircrafts carrying out Air-to-Ground Attack Roles and act as tactical air-interdictors.
Su-30 MKI is fitted with NIIP NO11M Bars (Panther) which is a powerful integrated PESA Radar. The radar can track 15 air targets and engage 4 simultaneously including cruise missiles and motionless helicopters. The Su-30MKI can function as a mini-AWACS as a director or command post for other aircraft. The target co-ordinates can be transferred automatically to at least four other aircraft. The radar can detect ground targets such as tanks at 40–50 km.
Su-30MKI also has electronic counter-measure systems. The RWR system is of Indian design, developed by India’s DRDO, called Tarang, (Wave in English). It has direction finding capability and is known to have a programmable threat library. Elta EL/M-8222 a self-protection jammer developed by Israel Aircraft Industries is the MKI’s standard EW pod, which the Israeli Air Force uses on its F-15s. The ELTA El/M-8222 Self Protection Pod is a power-managed jammer, air-cooled system with an ESM receiver integrated into the pod. The pod contains an antenna on the forward and aft ends, which receive the hostile RF signal and after processing deliver the appropriate response.
Su-30MKI in future will be upgraded by the Super Sukhoi Upgrade Package which will add a new X-Band Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, 101KS-V Infrared Search and Track System, DRDO-DARE developed Dual Color Missile Approaching Warning System and better engines which will be an overkill advantage for Indian Air Force Su-30MKI to further bolster its capabilities against potential adversaries in coming future. However, the one particular deficiency with such an aircraft type is that they require heavy maintenance to keep them combat effective which is why they need Light Multirole Aircrafts like Tejas as well as Medium-Weight Aircraft like Rafales to keep the operations simplified as these light and nimble aircraft can take on the role of Air Interdiction, Strike Roles and Counter-Air Operations.
Su-30MKI currently with its powerful N011M ‘Bars’ Radar (which outclasses any Pakistan Fighter Jet Radar) and its complement of 12 Air-to-Air Missiles in Air Dominance Role consisting of R-73, R-27 and R-77 Missiles and supported by Phalcon AWACS will be what Pakistan will be facing especially when India will be fielding them in large numbers unlike Rafale who will play a separate Strategic role.
Rafale though is a significant addition to Indian Air Force, carries only a minor advantage to Indian Air Force if no further numbers are inducted in future. The level of Technological Asymmetry vouched by the Indian Air Force will not come alone with Rafale and Pakistan Air Force would be sure to study its framework with its strength and weaknesses and will put their doctrine in place according to it, to counter them with all means necessary. In future, if Rafale is inducted in significant numbers (IAF is vouching for upto 100 Rafales), then they will pack a serious punch on the frontline with their smart and discrete sensors coupled with state-of-the-art weapons package and active cancellation (thanks to SPECTRA Suite) which will be a serious headache for adversaries and will further sharpen IAF’s edge in future.
This article is taken from QURA Written Harsh Bardhan Click Here