Russia, goodbye!

It is said in The Business Standard that the programme for India and Russia to jointly develop a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), long touted as the flagship of a time-tested defence relationship, has run into a stone wall. Documents available with Business Standard indicate India’s defence ministry is cold-shouldering Russian requests to continue the negotiations on a «R&D Draft Contract», which will govern the partnership to develop a futuristic, fifth-generation fighter, reported Ajai Shukla.

Unhappy with the way Russia has handled the joint project to develop India’s future fighter from the Sukhoi T-50 design, the Indian AF is backpedalling on the project
Unhappy with the way Russia has handled the joint project to develop India’s future fighter from the Sukhoi T-50 design, the Indian AF is backpedalling on the project

A letter from Russia’s powerful export agency, Rosoboronexport, points India’s defence ministry has not responded to Russian requests dated February 9 and March 3, which «suggested holding of the negotiations in February and March of 2015».

Sources tell Business Standard this is because air marshals fear the FGFA undermines the rationale for buying the Rafale fighter from France, a $18-20 billion contract that is sputtering through so-far unsuccessful negotiations.

In December 24, 2013, top Indian Air Force (IAF) officials alleged the FGFA would not meet Indian expectations. Business Standard reported that air marshals at a high-level defence ministry meeting (January 21, 2014) claimed: «Russia can’t deliver on Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft. The FGFA has shortfalls… in terms of performance and other technical features». The IAF claimed the FGFA’s current AL-41F1 engines were underpowered; the Russians were reluctant to share critical design information; and the fighter would eventually cost too much.

On January 15, 2014, at a MoD meeting to review progress on the FGFA, the Deputy Chief of Air Staff (DCAS), the IAF’s top procurement official, said:

  • the FGFA’s engine was unreliable;
  • its radar inadequate;
  • its stealth features badly engineered;
  • India’s work share too low;
  • the fighter’s price would be exorbitant by the time it enters service.
The radar cross section of the airframe has been kept to the lowest possible value by selecting the most adequate outer mould line and materials. Most of the stealth design features are classified, but some of them are clearly visible, such as the serrated patterns on the trailing edge of the wings and canards
The radar cross section of the airframe has been kept to the lowest possible value by selecting the most adequate outer mould line and materials. Most of the stealth design features are classified, but some of them are clearly visible, such as the serrated patterns on the trailing edge of the wings and canards

Contract with Dassault (April 10, 2015) seems logical conclusion of this story. Dassault Aviation, which is the Indian Air Force supplier for more than 60 years, is honored of the repeated trust of the Indian Government and welcomes its intention to finalize the acquisition of 36 Rafale aircraft at conditions that will allow to meet rapidly the security needs of India.

Dassault Aviation is grateful to the Indian Authorities to be given the opportunity to pursue and extend their partnership and underlines its pride in contributing to Indian defense and sovereignty.

By doubling the number of Rafales it will buy directly from France, without waiting for the conclusion of the license-production agreement, India ensures it will get the aircraft as soon as possible and gained extra time to work out local production details.

«Just as we are delivering the first upgraded Mirage 2000, I am delighted by the decision of the Indian Authorities which gives a new impetus to our partnership for the next decades and comes within the scope of the strategic relationship gathering France and India», declared Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.

Composite materials are extensively used in the Rafale and they account for 70% of the wetted area. They also account for the 40% increase in the max take-off weight to empty weight ratio compared with traditional airframes built of aluminium and titanium
Composite materials are extensively used in the Rafale and they account for 70% of the wetted area. They also account for the 40% increase in the max take-off weight to empty weight ratio compared with traditional airframes built of aluminium and titanium

 

Rafale

The Rafale, with its «omnirole» capabilities, is the right answer to the capability approach selected by an increasing number of governments. It fully complies with the requirement to carry out the widest range of roles with the smallest number of aircraft. The Rafale participates in permanent «Quick Reaction Alert» (QRA)/air-defence/air sovereignty missions, power projection and deployments for external missions, deep strike missions, air support for ground forces, reconnaissance missions, pilot training sorties and nuclear deterrence duties. The Air Force single-seat Rafale C, the Air Force two-seat Rafale B, and the naval single-seat Rafale M feature maximum airframe and equipment commonality, and very similar mission capabilities.

Lessons learned from the latest conflicts where air power was used, can be summarized into four overarching expectations about weapon systems by political decision makers:

  • «Versatility», that is the capability, with the same system, to perform different missions.
  • «Interoperability», or the ability to fight in coalition with the allies, using common procedures and standards agreements, and collaborating and communicating in real-time with other systems.
  • «Flexibility», which can be illustrated by the ability to conduct several different missions in the course of the same sortie («omnirole» capability). With this capability, it is possible to switch instantly on the demand of a political decision maker, from a coercion mission («strike force») to a preventive mission (a dissuasive low-altitude, high-speed «show of force»), or even to cancel a mission until the last second (reversibility).
  • «Survivability», that is the capability to survive in a dense threat environment thanks to stealthiness and/or to advanced electronic warfare systems.

The «omnirole» Rafale combines all these advantages: it is relevant against both traditional and asymmetrical threats, it addresses the emerging needs of the armed forces in a changing geopolitical context, and it remains at the forefront of technical innovation. Thanks to its versatility, its adaptability and its ability to meet all air mission requirements, the Rafale is the «poster child» transformational fighter, which provides a way forward to air forces confronted to the requirement of doing «more» with «less», in an ever-changing strategic environment.

The close-coupled canards/delta wing configuration is key to the combat performance of the Rafale: even at high angle-of-attack, it remains fully agile, and its range performance in strike missions with heavy weapon loads is unmatched for such a compact design
The close-coupled canards/delta wing configuration is key to the combat performance of the Rafale: even at high angle-of-attack, it remains fully agile, and its range performance in strike missions with heavy weapon loads is unmatched for such a compact design

 

Specifications and performance data

Dimensions

Wingspan:                                          10.90 m/35.76 feet

Length:                                                 15.30 m/50.19 feet

Height:                                                  5.30 m/17.38 feet

Weight

Overall empty weight:                 10,000 kg/22,000 lbs class

Maximum take-off weight:       24,500 kg/54,000 lbs

Fuel (internal):                                  4,700 kg/10,300 lbs

Fuel (external):                                 up to 6,700 kg/14,700 lbs

External load:                                    9,500 kg/21,000 lbs

Store stations

Total:                                                     14

Heavy – wet:                                     5

Performance

Maximum thrust:                           2×7.5 tons

Limit load factors:                          -3.2 g/+9 g

Maximum speed (Low altitude):       M = 1.1/750 knots/863 mph/ 1389 km/h

Maximum speed (High altitude):      M = 1.8/1,032 knots/1,187 mph/ 1,911 km/h

Approach speed:                          less than 120 knots/138 mph/222 km/h

Landing ground run:                  1,500 feet/450 m without drag-chute

Service ceiling:                              50,000 feet/15,240 m

The Rafale features a delta wing with close-coupled canards. In-house research in computational fluid dynamics has shown the specific benefits of close coupling between the wings and the canards: it ensures a wide range of centre of gravity positions for all flight conditions, as well as benign handling throughout the whole flight envelope.
The Rafale features a delta wing with close-coupled canards. In-house research in computational fluid dynamics has shown the specific benefits of close coupling between the wings and the canards: it ensures a wide range of centre of gravity positions for all flight conditions, as well as benign handling throughout the whole flight envelope.

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