The Indian Air Force has recently released images of its latest Rafale fighter jets conducting sorties armed with wingtip-mounted MICA short/medium-range air to air missiles in Ladakh.
The region was a hotbed of military activities against the PLA during the recent standoff in Galwan, Depsang, Pangong Tso, and other areas of Eastern Ladakh. The ensuing clashes resulted in many casualties on both sides, being involved in unarmed hand to hand medieval-style warfare.
However, this is not the first time Indian jets are seen flying over Ladakh armed with MICA AAMs. In September last year, images of an IAF Rafale and Mirage 2000 surfaced over social media showing the latter carrying the missile reportedly near the region. It was part of ‘familiarisation sorties’ for the Indian pilots to ensure and maintain operational capability with the aircraft. But, this is indeed the first time these missiles are seen on official Indian Air Force accounts.
What is special about MICA missiles?
Developed by the French company MBDA, the MICA (abbreviated for Missile d’interception, de combat et d’autodéfense) is one of the most advanced short to medium range air-to-air missiles in the world.
The missile equips the Rafale and latest versions of the Mirage 2000 aircraft, while the Indian Air Force is also looking forward to integrating the missile with its Su-30MKI air superiority fighter jets. In August last year, the service secretly test-fired two rounds of MICA missiles from its Flankers, successfully destroying the expendable aerial targets.
MICA offers a unique engagement capability, which can be used as a both short-range and beyond visual range missile. The weapon is offered with two interoperable seekers, in two versions namely:
- RF MICA with radar seeker providing all weather shoot-up / shoot down capability
- IR MICA with dual waveband imaging infrared seeker surpassing latest generation AAM missiles.
According to the company, MICA outperforms other BVR missiles with its unique stealthy interception capability provided by its silent seeker.
The Indian Air Force recently received the fourth lot of its Rafale fighters, upping up the total aircraft in service to 14. The IAF is also set to raise the second Rafale Squadron at Hasimara in West Bengal by mid-April. Out of the 36 Rafales ordered, 6 would be the twin-seat “Rafale DH” variants, and the remaining 30 would be the single-seat “Rafale EH” variants.