It’s no surprise, considering the situation on the Sino-Indian border — the first batch of Rafale fighter jets inducted in the Indian Air Force’s Golden Arrows squadron are now “fully operational.”
The five fighters just landed at Ambala air base last week, after being flown from the Dassault factory in France — and two of them are trainers.
What is a bit alarming, is that the IAF’s new fighters are already practising night flying in the mountainous terrain of Himachal Pradesh, the Hindustan Times reported.
The rush to training is so that the Golden Arrows squadron, with its Meteor air-to-air missile and SCALP air-to-ground stand-off weapon, will be ready if the situation deteriorates on the 1,597 km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector.
And if that were not enough, rapid deployment Chinook helicopters have flown in the night over 16,000 foot Daulet Beg Oldi, the Indian Army’s last outpost near Karakoram Pass, the Hindustan Times reported.
The decision to fly a Chinook over the DBO advance landing ground at night was taken to test the Indian Army’s capability of rapid insertion of special forces and infantry combat vehicles in the sub-sector north (SSN) area.
“ While Apache attack helicopters have been patrolling Chushul area, the US made Chinook flew over DBO to test its night fighting capabilities…..we have already deployed T-90 tanks and artillery guns in the area,” said a senior commander.
The US built Chinook has a proven record of night flying in Afghan mountainous terrain and has two heavy calibre machine guns deployed at the front and back of the chopper, the Hindustan Times reported.
A government official said the top-of-the-line fighter jets are staying away from the LAC lest the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) radars in occupied Aksai Chin identify their frequency signatures and use it to jam in the worst case scenario.
Military aviation experts, however, say that Rafales can also be used for training in Ladakh sector as all these fighters are equipped with programmable signal processors (PSP) or the capacity to change signal frequencies in the event of hostilities.
“Even though the Chinese PLA have placed their electronic intelligence radars on mountain tops in the occupied Aksai Chin area for a clear line of sight, the war-time signature of Rafale will be different from that in practise mode. The PLA aircraft detection radars are good as they have been manufactured keeping the US air force in mind,” said an expert.
The Rafale jets are armed with Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missiles, MICA multi-mission air-to-air missiles and Scalp deep-strike cruise missiles — weapons that will allow fighter pilots to attack air and ground targets from standoff ranges.
The Meteor missiles have a no-escape zone believed to be three times greater than that of current medium-range air-to-air missiles. The missile system, powered by a unique rocket-ramjet motor, has a range of over 120 kilometres.
The SCALP is a deep-strike cruise missile with pinpoint terminal accuracy through its highly accurate seeker and target recognition system.
According to Defence Aviation Post, US-based aerospace giant Boeing completed deliveries of its CH-47F Chinooks to the IAF in March.
“The final five of the 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters were handed over to the IAF at the Air Force Station, Chandigarh, just before the countrywide lockdown,” sources said.
The US$3 billion deal also included 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache Longbow attack helicopters.
Meanwhile, according to Janes, India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has deployed two Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) prototypes in support of IAF operations in the country’s Himalayan region of Ladakh near the LAC.
One of these twin-engined multirole rotorcraft conducted a simulated attack on a high-altitude target, after which it landed at “one of the most treacherous helipads in the region,” said HAL, without identifying the exact location for security reasons.
The company added that the locally designed, 5.5 tonne helicopter demonstrated its “quick deployment prowess to forward locations in extreme [freezing] temperatures.”
Official sources told Janes that the move also confirmed the LCH’s ability to operate day and night at altitudes over 4,000m.