This Sunday, DefenseNews, an American military affairs website, published a garbage screed smearing the Dassault Rafale and quoting garbage Russian state propaganda in support of one of its rivals, the Su-30MKI. (Who would’ve thought thatan American news website would be parrotting Russian state propaganda?)
In that article, DefenseNews falsely claims that the Rafale will likely fail to win an export order in India because, supposedly, France is an unreliable supplier of weapons. In support of that garbage claim, DefenseNews parrots Russian propaganda:
“Russian officials and pundits have gone out of their way in recent months to cast France as an unreliable trading partner, a supplier that may cancel deals at the last minute in accordance with the political whims of its puppet masters in DC, and have promised to pursue legal damages if Paris does not go through with the delivery.”
France is a poodle of its puppet masters in DC? Can anyone take these people seriously?
The reason why the delivery of the Mistrals has been suspended is because Russia has illegally invaded another state and annexed part of its territory by force. This is illegal and contrary to the norms accepted throughout the civilized world. If Russia doesn’t like that, it should withdraw from Ukraine, return the Crimea to that country, and respect its territorial integrity. Period.
But DefenseNews doesn’t stop there. It says Rafale will likely fail to land the deal because the Su-30MKI Flanker is supposedly a better alternative. To support that ridiculous claim, it again quotes garbage Russian propaganda:
“Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a Moscow-based defense think tank, said Russia has been lobbying for some time for India to ax the Rafale contract.
“Russia has tried its best to explain to India, as the Eurofighter people have, that it is completely senseless to buy a platform designed in the 1980s for such a huge amount of money,” Pukhov said, “especially since the full fleet won’t be operational for, let’s say, 10 years.”
For the money India would spend on Rafale, it could buy from a mature product that they already know how to maintain and operate, Pukhov argued, adding that its combat capability surpasses that of any other aircraft in India’s Air Force.”
All of that is utter garbage.
Firstly, India has not signed a contract for the Rafales yet. Secondly, although the Rafale was designed in the 1980s, the Flanker – which Pukhov touts as a superior alternative – is much older. It was designed in the late 1960s and in the 1970s as the Soviet response to the American F-15 and first flew in 1977 – a full 9 years before the Rafale did. In fact, at that time, the Rafale project didn’t even exist. Furthemore, the Flanker entered service with the Soviet (not Russian) Air Force in 1984 – 2 years before the Rafale first flew.
Thus, the Rafale is much younger.
As for the Eurofighter, it is also older than the Rafale. The Eurofighter project was initiated in the early 70s and early 80s, but in 1984, by decision of then-French Defense Minister Charles Hernu, France withdrew from the project and then started its own fighter program.
But age isn’t the most important metric of a fighter. Combat capability is. ANd here, the Rafale has an undisputable edge over all competitors, including and especially the Su-30MKI.
The most important criteria by which to measure fighters are: reduced observability (to the human eye, on radar, and to thermal (IR) sensors); speed and maneuverability (including turning capability and climb rate);its combat radius; its weapons load and capability; combat availablity and ease of maintenance; and avionics.
Those are the criteria that actually determine victory in air combat, because:
1) An aircraft which is easy to detect (whether visually, with radar, or with infrared sensors) is not survivable and therefore destined to lose. History of air combat since the First World War shows 80% of fighters shot down went down unaware of their predator. The pilot also must have good vertical and unobstructed all-around horizontal visibility, so that he can see what’s behind his aircraft.
2) An aircraft which is less maneuverable than the opponent will be outmaneuvered by him, and he’ll position himself behind that aircraft’s rear, its most vulnerable quadrant, while being slower than the enemy makes fleeing him – or chasing him – impossible;
3) An aircraft which lacks the combat radius to perform distant missions or to protect a sizeable part of a nation’s territory is useless;
4) An aircraft which can’t carry a meaningful, useful weapons load will have few weapons to fire at opponents who will likely try to duck them, and if its weapons are simply inferior, it can simply be outgunned;
5) An aircraft which has to spend too many hours on the ground cand can’t fly often is, to be blunt, useless; and
6) Modern fighter aircraft need a wide range of modern avionics – including active and passive sensors, computers, and datalinks – to detect and target enemies, attack them accurately, maintain contact with friendlies, and exchange information with them.
By these criteria, the SU-30MKI is decisively inferior to the Rafale:
1) The Su-30MKI, like other Flankers, is much larger, heavier, and hotter – and thus much easier to detect visually, with radar, and with infrared sensors – than the Rafale. So a Rafale could detect a Flanker much earlier than the other way around. Worst of all, the Flanker’s (including the Su-30MKI’s) pilots have very poor rearward visibility, while the Rafale (like other Eurocanard aircraft, as well as the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, and F-22) gives its pilot completely unobstructed horizontal visibility. So a Rafale can sneak behind an Su-30MKI, and the Indian Flanker pilot won’t even know the Rafale is there! That’s basically game over already, but let’s review the other criteria, shall we?
2) The Su-30MKI is decidely less maneuverable than the Rafale: it climbs slower (300 m/s vs 305 m/s for the Rafale) and has a very high wing loading ratio (401 kg/sq m, vs 304 kg/sq m for the Rafale – a difference of almost 100 kg/sq m!). It has excellent roll onset, pitch onset, instantaneous turning, and sustained turning rates. Thus, the Rafale can easily outturn and outclimb the Su-30MKI. As my fellow blogger Picard has written:
“Rafale’s placement of canards, which are close coupled to the wing, means that outboard canard vortices energize wing tips regardless of the angle of attack. This results in excellent roll onset rate at all flight conditions, allowing aircraft to be flown with rapid reversals of flight directions instead of rolling pulls. Canards also create an area of low pressure on forward part of the wing, which results in a significant pitch-up tendency and consequently in rapid pitch onset rate. Maximum climb rate is 305 meters per second, indicating very good acceleration, while wing loading of 275 kg/m2 at combat weight gives it instantaneous turn rate unmatched among Western fighters, especially when combained with close-coupled canard’s favorable effects on wing lift at high angles of attack. Thrust-to-weight ratio is 1,2 at combat weight, and allows it good sustained turn rate, especially when combined with its very high lift to drag ratio.”
3) Both aircraft have sizeable combat radii, but the Rafale’s is greater, at 1,852 kms unrefueled.
4) The Rafale B and C can carry more weapons than the Su-30MKI – 13 and 14, respectively, vs the Su-30MKI’s 12. The Rafale is, in fact, the only fighter in the world which can carry ordnance and fuel weighting 1.5 times the aircraft’s empty weight. Its 30mm gun is the best fighter gun in the world, and its MICA IR missiles permit it to shoot down opponents detected by its IRST at a range of up to 80 kms.
5) The Rafale spends only 8 hours on the ground for each hour flown. The Su-30MK (including the MKI) has to spend FOUR times as much time on the ground – 32 hours for each hour flown! So the Rafale can fly four hours for each hour the Su-30MKI can fly. So even if the IAF could buy four times more Su-30s than the 126 Rafales it’s in talks to buy, in practice, only a quarter of these would be operationally available. Put another way, to numerically match the Rafales in the air, you’d have to have a total Su-30 fleet 4 times larger than your opponent’s Rafale fleet. Problem is, the Su-30MKI is not much cheaper than the Rafale.
6) The Rafale’s OSF infra-red search and tracking system and its RBE2 AESA radar are among the best in the world. By contrast, the Su-30MKI uses the inferior Phazotron Zhuk AESA radar and the OLS-30 IRST which, although good, is nowhere near as good as the Rafale’s OSF – or the OLS-35 used on the newest Flanker variant, the Su-35.
A few final considerations are worth pointing out: The Rafale needs only a 450 m runway to take off, and its wingspan of 10,8 meters allows it to take off from Western-style highways, or from makeshift runways, if need be. The Su-30MKI, with a runway requirement of at least 550 m and a wingspan of 15 m, cannot do that.
Last but not least, the Russian officials cited by DefenseNews claim that India has experience building, maintaining, and operating the Su-30MKI. That is true, but that is no justification for buying an inferior aircraft when one can buy a much better fighter. And India is a relatively recent Sukhoi customer, while it has literally decades and decades of experience operating Dassault fighters. If New Delhi procures the Rafale, IAF pilots and technicians would need little retraining.
In short, the DefenseNews screed is a piece of Russian propaganda BS. If BS were currency, the authors of that screed could easily bail Russia out of its fiscal problems.