Indonesia has agreed to buy Rafale fighter jets from France. Photo: French Air Force

France is dropping the Hammer on India, and the Indian Air Force couldn’t be happier.

Chalk up yet another major score for the IAF, at the expense of rival China — France has agreed to equip Indian Rafale fighters with air-to-surface Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) all-weather smart weapons.

This is apart from air-to-air MICA, METEOR missiles and the air-to-ground SCALP stand-off weapon.

According to the Hindustan Times, the Hammer is an advanced fire-and-forget weapon that can be launched at very short range or up to 70 kilometres without GPS  and an extended stand-off capacity.

According to officials, the weapons will be delivered to the Golden Arrows Squadron of Indian Air Force station in Ambala by the end of this month. The Hammer contract was reportedly signed between the governments of France and India in September. 

The weapon usually would have taken a year to be delivered to the IAF, but the French Air Force has decided to part with the weapon from its inventory to meet New Delhi’s urgent requirement.

The Rafale fighter is on the frontline of the IAF, which is currently on high state of alert due to People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aggression at points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh region, The Hindustan Times reported.

The second batch of three Rafale fighters flew from Bordeaux using air-to-air refuellers and joined the Ambala squadron on Wednesday (Nov. 4).

The eight jets are part of 36 fighter jets that are expected to reach India by mid-2022 as part of a ₹60,000 crore deal signed by the NDA government in 2016.

The Hammer weapon can be used for multi-target attack and has zero maintenance due to reduced life cycle cost, The Hindustan Times reported.

With data link capability, the weapon is aware of hostile environments and has full flexibility to strike at any target.

In addition to the use of a dedicated warhead and an air burst capacity, the angle of impact can be set up fora full vertical dive for maximum destruction.

India’s Rafale fighter jets will soon have air-to-surface Hammer (Highly Agile Modular Munition Extended Range) all-weather smart weapon in addition to air-to-air MICA, METEOR missiles and air-to-ground SCALP stand-off weapon. Credit: Rafale.

While MICA features air-to-air kill at a maximum range of 80 km, the METEOR missile has a beyond visual range touching near 140 km, officials said.

The SCALP is an air-to-ground stand-off weapon with a 300 km range and a 450 kilogram warhead.

It flies at just below the speed of sound and is guided infra-red technology, The Hindustan Times reported.

With the arrival of the Hammer weapon, experts say the Indian Rafale group now has a full armament complement, and is well within its ability to take on Pakistan’s JF-17 fighter or the PLAAF’s J-20 in any wartime theater.

— with files from The Federal