The Indian Air Force (IAF) has made a significant request to Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of the Rafale fighter jet, to integrate domestically produced Indian weapons, such as the 'Astra Air' air-to-air missile, onto the combat aircraft. This move, if executed, could represent a major stride for the 'Make in India' initiative, wherein indigenously manufactured weapons would be integrated into the globally renowned fighter jet.
The Rafale Fighter jets, manufactured in France, are currently utilized by numerous countries, including India, France, Egypt, Qatar, and others. Additionally, several nations like Greece, Croatia, UAE, and Indonesia have placed orders for these highly capable planes.
Since 2020, the Indian Air Force has already been utilizing the Astra Air missile. Indian weapon systems are already integrated into the Su-30 MKI combat aircraft, as well as the indigenous LCA Tejas. In pursuit of self-reliance and indigenous solutions, the IAF has urged Dassault Aviation to integrate Indian-made weapons, such as the Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW), with the Rafale.
The IAF also has plans to integrate multiple domestically designed weapons from private sector firms, including long-range glide bombs, into the Rafale in the near future. Currently operating 36 Rafale fighter jets, India has expressed its intention to purchase 26 Rafale marine aircraft for use by its Navy.
With a focus on self-reliance, especially during times of conflict, the top brass of the Indian Air Force has been actively seeking indigenous solutions for their war-fighting needs. In light of the ongoing standoff with China, many weapon systems acquired by the force are being put on the path of indigenization.
Regarding specific weapons, the Astra air-to-air missiles have a striking range of up to 100 Km, but an extension to 160 Kms is expected in the Astra Mark 2. An even further upgraded version is being developed with a strike range of 300 Kms. Similarly, the Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW) is also capable of hitting targets at a range of 100 Km and beyond, with advanced versions currently under development.
In addition to government-developed missiles and bombs, private sector companies have also contributed to the development of long-range weapons that can be equipped on the Rafale.
The integration of Indian-made weapons onto the Rafale fighter jet not only supports the 'Make in India' initiative but also empowers the Indian Air Force with enhanced capabilities, bolstering its self-reliance and strategic positioning in the face of evolving security challenges!