France has agreed to equip Indian Rafale fighters with air-to-surface Hammer all-weather smart weapon apart from air-to-air MICA, METEOR missiles and air-to-ground SCALP stand-off weapon. The Hammer is a fire and forget weapon that can be launched from a very short range to a very long range of 70 kilometres without availability of GPS and has high resistance to jamming and target location errors.
According to senior officials, the Hammer contract was signed between the two governments in September 2020 and the weapons in large numbers will be delivered to the Golden Arrows Squadron of Indian Air Force station in Ambala by the end of this month. The Hindustan Times is not disclosing the contract or the total numbers.
The defence cooperation between India and France is such that normally the Hammer weapon would have been delivered to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in a year but the French air force has decided to part with limited weapons from their inventory to cater to 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 four points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The second batch of three Rafale fighters flew from Bordeaux last night using air-to-air refuellers and joined the Ambala squadron today.
The Hammer weapon can be used for multi-target attack and has zero maintenance due to reduced life cycle cost. With data link capability, the weapon is aware of the hostile environment and has full flexibility to strike at the target. In addition to the use of dedicated warhead and an air burst capacity, the angle of impact can be set up till a full vertical dive for maximum destruction.
While MICA has air-to-air kill at a maximum range of 80 km, the METEOR missile has a beyond visual range touching near 140 km. The SCALP is an air-to-ground stand-off weapon with a 300 km range and a 450 kilogram warhead. It flies just below the speed of sound and had imaging infra-red terminal guidance.
With the arrival of Hammer weapon, the Indian Rafale has now a full armament complement with the capacity to dominate and destroy the adversary, whether it be a JF-17 fighter with Pakistan Air Force or J-20 fighter with the PLA Air Force.