India has asked France to equip the first four Rafale jets with Meteor missiles. Meteor is an active radar-guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) which offers a multi-shot capability against long-range manoeuvring targets.
The Meteor missiles has an approximate range of around 150 kilometres and no-escape zone of over 60 km, which is largest among air-to-air missiles.
The request for at least 8-10 Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile to be delivered with the four Rafale jets was communicated to France during defence minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to the country to formally receive the first fighter aircraft at Merignac in the Bordeaux region on October 8 2019.
The first four Rafale fighter jets are set to arrive in India by May 2020 after training of pilots and ground teams, besides extensive performance trials in France. As per plans, these jets were to be originally equipped with the Mica air-to-air missiles that are also operational on the Mirage 2000 fleet and supplemented later with the Meteor.
The Indian request for Meteor missiles comes after the clash between Indian and Pakistani Air Force along the Line of Control on February 27, a day after the Indian bombardment of the JeM facility in Pakistan.
The India Sukhoi-30MKIs and other jets were rushed to intercept the hostile Pakistani jets found it tricky to counter the F-16s at long ranges.
The Pakistani F-16s were equipped with the AIM-120C advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAMs), which have a range of about 100-km, and had fired many of them at the Sukhoi-30MKIs before the Russian built jet could even get into their firing range.
The Meteor missile has a solid-fueled ramjet motor that permits the missile to cruise at a speed of over Mach 4 and provides it with thrust and mid-way acceleration to target the hostile aircraft.
A two-way datalink facilitates the launch aircraft to provide mid-course target updates or retargeting if required, including data from off-board third parties. The data link is capable of transmitting missile information such as functional and kinematic status, information about multiple targets, and notification of target acquisition by the seeker. The key to Meteor’s performance is a throttleable ducted rocket (ramjet) manufactured by Bayern-Chemie of Germany.
According to reports, the Meteor missile can also be equipped on the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II F-35 by 2024 for the UK and Italian Air Forces. It is even rumoured that the U.S. Navy may require a Meteor-class missile to replace the capability lost with the retirement of the AIM-54 Phoenix in 2004.
Earlier, Indian plans to outfit its Russian SU-30MKI and indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas with long-range Meteor beyond visual range missiles was rejected when the European manufacturers clearly stated that they would not integrate their weapon on any Israeli or Russian platform.
Both Pakistan and China don’t have a missile in the range of the Meteor, which has been developed by a European consortium and would be equipped with the Rafale jets.