NEW DELHI: India is planning to also equip its new Rafale fighter jets, which already have a deadly weapons package, with the “Hammer” air-to-ground precision-guided munitions amid the ongoing military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh.
The first five of the 36 Omni-role Rafales, contracted from France under the Rs 59,000-crore deal inked in September 2016, are slated to touch down at Ambala airbase on July 29, as was earlier reported by TOI.
Even as preparations are in full swing to ensure the Rafales become fully operational as soon as possible in the backdrop of the heightened tensions with China, sources on Thursday said talks are underway with France to swiftly acquire the Hammer (highly agile modular munition extended range) weapons for the jets.
The 20- to 70-km range Hammers, designed to destroy bunkers, hardened shelters, and other targets in all terrains including the mountainous ones in eastern Ladakh will be procured under the emergency financial powers granted to the armed forces during the confrontation with China.
The all-weather Hammers are similar to the Israeli origin “Spice” precision-guided bombs which were used by Indian Mirage-2000 fighters during the Balakot airstrikes in February last year.
A Rafale can carry up to six Hammers to hit as many targets simultaneously. While the Rafales will almost be combat-deployable when they arrive at Ambala, capable of firing its over 300km range Scalp air-to-ground cruise missiles and other weapons, the integration of the 120-150 km range Meteor air-to-air missiles will take some time.