New Delhi: In order to add more lethality, the Indian Air Force has asked Rafale fighter jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation to integrate Indian made weapons like the ‘Astra Air’ to air missile on the combat aircraft. This could be a big step for ‘Make in India’ in defence. The integration of weapons like the Astra air-to-air missile, Smart Anti Airfield Weapon, and long-range glide bombs may lead to an opening in the global market for indigenous weapons.
The IAF has been using the Astra Air since 2020. The Indian weapon systems are already integrated into the Su-30 MKI combat aircraft along with the indigenous LCA Tejas. The Rafale Fighter jets are used by many countries including India, France, Egypt, Qatar and many others along with Greece, Croatia, UAE and Indonesia, have placed orders for these planes.
“The IAF has asked the original equipment manufacturer Dassault Aviation to integrate Indian-made weapons like the Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW) and the Astra air-to-air missile with the Rafale which has been in service with the IAF since 2020,” a news agency reported citing defence officials. The IAF also has plans of integrating multiple indigenously designed weapons by private sector firms including long-range glide bombs with the aircraft in the near future, they said.
India has already expressed intent to buy 26 Rafale marine aircraft which are to be used by its Navy and Indian Air Force operates 36 Rafale fighter jets. According to Industry sources, considering the capability and the pricing of the Indian weapon systems, there could be a big market for them once they are integrated into the Rafale.
“The private sector companies have also developed missiles and bombs which can hit targets from long ranges and can be equipped on the Rafale,” the officials said.
To be self-reliant, especially in times of conflict, the Indian Air Force top brass have been pushing for indigenous solutions for their war-fighting requirements. A large chunk of weapon systems acquired by the force during the ongoing standoff with China have also been put on the indigenisation path.
The Astra air-to-air missiles are capable of striking targets up to the 100 Km range but very soon this will be extended to 160 KMs in the Astra Mark 2 while the further upgraded version would be one with a strike range of 300 Kms. The SAAW can also hit targets at 100 Km plus range and its advanced versions are also being developed.