The Indian Air Force (IAF) has made a request to Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale fighter jets, to integrate domestically produced weapons such as the ‘Astra Air’ to air missile onto the combat aircraft. This move, if implemented, would mark a significant stride for the ‘Make in India’ initiative, as it involves integrating indigenous weaponry into the globally renowned fighter jet.
The Rafale fighter jets, originally manufactured in France, are employed by various countries, including India, France, Egypt, and Qatar. Additionally, several other nations, including Greece, Croatia, UAE, and Indonesia, have placed orders for these advanced planes.
Since 2020, the Indian Air Force has been utilizing the Astra Air, and Indian weapon systems are already integrated into the Su-30 MKI combat aircraft and the indigenous LCA Tejas.
Defence officials informed news agency ANI that the IAF has approached Dassault Aviation to integrate Indian-made weapons, including the Smart Anti Airfield Weapon (SAAW) and the Astra air-to-air missile, into the Rafale aircraft currently in service with the IAF.
In addition to these domestically developed missiles and bombs by DRDO, the IAF plans to incorporate multiple indigenously designed weapons by private sector firms onto the Rafale in the near future. This step aligns with India’s objective to bolster self-reliance and enhance its indigenous capabilities, particularly during times of conflict.
Amidst the ongoing standoff with China, the IAF has been prioritizing indigenous solutions for its war-fighting requirements, with many acquired weapon systems being directed towards indigenization.
The Astra air-to-air missiles presently have a striking range of up to 100 kilometers, and this range is expected to extend to 160 kilometers in the future Astra Mark 2 version, while a further upgraded version is planned to reach a striking range of 300 kilometers.
Similarly, the SAAW is capable of hitting targets beyond 100 kilometers, with advanced versions under development.
Officials highlighted that private sector companies have also made notable progress in developing long-range missiles and bombs suitable for equipping the Rafale aircraft. This ongoing effort underscores India’s determination to enhance its defense capabilities with a strong focus on domestically manufactured weaponry.