Business & Defence

At Defexpo 2022, MBDA Will Showcase World-Class Missiles

For the fighters in its fleet, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has turned to a number of combat aircraft designs. The Rafale is the Israeli Air Force’s sixth fighter aircraft type. When it comes to missiles, which are the real firepower of a combat aircraft, the IAF has frequently resorted to MBDA for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missile needs.

The latest example is the IAF’s newest fighter, the Rafale. It is equipped with MBDA’s “really game-changing combination of armaments – the groundbreaking Meteor beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile, the MICA air combat missile, and the SCALP deep strike missile,” according to the company.

Three successive IAF chiefs have openly claimed that if the IAF had flown the Rafale with its MBDA missiles on the day the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) reacted to the Balakote raids, the PAF fleet would have paid a high price.

Few would question MBDA’s assertion on Saturday that “several tens of thousands of MBDA-designed missiles have been made in India over the last 50 years… and we continue to develop and deliver on new programmes,” given the company’s lengthy history with the IAF.

MBDA missiles are carried by almost every major European fighter aircraft class. The Meteor, the world’s longest-range air-to-air missile, is fitted to both land and sea versions of the Rafale. That would allow the Rafale to launch a Meteor at an adversary plane before the enemy fighter could engage it.

“The throttle-able ramjet engine, active radar seeker, and datalink are key to Meteor’s performance,” according to MBDA. The Meteor has a much larger “no-escape zone” (the arc in which the target aircraft cannot flee the missile) than any of its competitors due to its capacity to fly faster, for longer, and with sharper manoeuvres than other air-to-air missiles.

MBDA intends to show a full-scale Meteor missile at Defexpo 2022, which will take place in Gandhinagar from March 10 to 13.

The MICA, according to MBDA, is the first air-to-air missile in the world with two interoperable seekers: active radar and imaging infrared. As a result, the MICA may be utilised in both close-quarters fighter-to-fighter dogfights and the BVR role.

When fired in BVR mode, the MICA flies much of the distance to the opposing aircraft in passive mode — that is, without emitting radar emissions that might warn the opponent. Only in the closing stages of its approach does the seeker begin to radiate, giving the enemy aircraft no opportunity to make evasive manoeuvres or install effective countermeasures.

The Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM), which would arm the IAF’s updated Jaguar fleet and possibly the Hawk advanced jet trainer, is a third MBDA missile. It’s also part of the Gripen E’s arsenal of weapons.

“ASRAAM boasts unrivalled speed, aerodynamic manoeuvrability, and range, thanks to its massive rocket motor and sleek aerodynamic design… MBDA claims that the system “delivers outstanding end-game performance for WVR air combat.”

IAF Rafales are equipped with the French SCALP deep-strike cruise missile for attacking ground targets. This stealthy weapon can strike hardened and shielded targets deep inside enemy territory from a safe distance, avoiding the need for the Rafale to enter hostile airspace, which might be severely defended by air defence missiles. Due to its powerful tandem warhead and many explosion modes, the SCALP has the potential to cause havoc at the target end.

The Mistral man portable air defence system (MANPADS) will also be on show at Defexpo 2022, according to MBDA, which has “performed remarkably well in fire evaluation trials for India.”

The Mistral has already been chosen and integrated into India’s indigenous armed helicopters, such as the Rudra and Light Combat Helicopters (LCH). In Gandhinagar, three versions of the Mistral will be on display: a helicopter-launched version, a very short-range air defence manpack version, and a navy cruiser version.

Finally, the Exocet SM39 anti-ship missile, which is used by the Scorpene submarines, has been supplied to India by MBDA. The Exocet AM39 is another version that can be launched from maritime patrol aircraft, strike fighters like the Rafale, and medium to heavyweight aircraft.

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