|Rafale at Aero India 2017|
The Rafale contract envisages 13 India Specific enhancements (ISEs) valued at Euro 1.3 b. There is no official list of the ISEs in the public domain, however, based on media reports the ISEs include:
- More powerful engine
- Radar enhancements
- Helmet mounted display
- Towed decoy system
- Radar warning receiver
- Low band jammer
- Radio altimeter (CFIT avoidance?)
- Ability to start and operate from High Altitude Airfields
- 10-hr flight data recorder
- Infrared Search and Tracking (IRST)
- Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS)
The ToI reported on January 20, 2019 that the 13 India-specific enhancements or upgrades on the 36 jets would become fully operational only by September-October 2022 as they will require another six months to undergo "software certification" after all the fighters have arrived in India. In the past, there were reports that the ISEs would be carried out in India for all but the first Rafale to be delivered. The ToI in its above report states
The first Rafale jet with the 13 ISEs is currently undergoing flight-testing in France, which is expected to achieve certification by April 2022. By this time, the other 35 fighters with the requisite hardware upgrades will be delivered to India in batches of 4-6 each. "Thereafter, it will take another six months to finish the certification for the software to drive the ISEs for all the 36 jets," said another source.
The above quoted and other past reports suggest that the ISEs are largely software related.
The nature of the ISEs also reinforces the likelihood of they being primarily software related. If indeed that is the case, it would suggest that Dassault would be supplying India the source code of the sensors and display systems as part of the ISEs. Using the source code and ISE implementation documentation supplied by Dassault, IAF personnel would be able to customize the existing algorithms used and hone them to address the specific threats that the IAF faces.
The IAF would also be able to customize and if required tweak the display layout and symbology associated with multi-function and head up displays. That would explain why the IAF cannot detail the ISE specifics despite questions being raised about the high price being paid for them.
The following is an illustrative example. One of the ISE is LBJ (Low Band Jammer). However, LBJ is part of the Spectra EW suite that equips the F3R variant that India is purchasing from Dassault, so why is it listed as an ISE? Well.., because through customization the algorithms used to jam low band RF can be tweaked to handle the specific threats faced by India. The nature (frequency band, pulse characteristics, etc.) of RF emissions of Indian adversaries would be well known to India but not France. So software customization would be best handled by IAF personnel.
Similar would be the case for the AESA radar, towed jammer, IRST, MAWS, CIFT avoidance, SATCOM, etc.
The IAF would also want to customize the layout and symbology used on the fusion displays for standardization across platforms. It is unlikely that the IAF would have bought a software intensive platform such as the Rafale without the ToT for deep customization. The ToT would additionally allow the IAF to use Indian developed weapon systems like the Astra BVR missile and in the future weapon systems such as the NGARM.
There is another facet to the need for ISEs, Rafale would be operated by at least two other countries friendly to one of our adversaries leaving a window ajar for leaks of critical algorithms used in the Rafale. (The other adversary is an IPR thief of repute and would steal from any country - friendly or not!)
This post is based on this twitter thread posted on January 19, 2019.