Trials for deck-based fighters US Boeing Company’s Super Hornet F/A-18and France Rafale M for the Indian aircraft carrier are complete and a report is awaited, both demonstrate their capability to take off from ski jump.
Trials for deck based fighter aircraft for the aircraft carriers of the Indian Navy are done. US based Boeing Company’s Super Hornet or F/A-18 jets and Dassault Aviation of France sent Rafale Marine for demonstrating their capability to take off from. Responding to media questions, Vice Chief of the Indian Navy, Vice Admiral SN Ghormade said: “Trials for deck based fighters for the Indian aircraft carrier are complete and a report is awaited.”
Once the report is received, this will be followed by staff evaluation. “We will take a decision as early as possible,” added the Vice Chief.
Both Boeing Company of the US and Dassault Aviation of France are in competition for the Indian Navy’s requirement of 57 combat aircraft. Once the company is down selected based on the final reports, the Indian Navy is expected to procure 26 jets.
No numbers have been decided yet. “We will decide the numbers, as we are already operating MiGs. The deal will be an Inter-governmental Agreement (IGA),” Vice Admiral SN Ghormade added.
Financial Express Online reported in May that two twin seater F/A-18E/F Block III Super Hornets of Boeing landed at INS Hansa in Goa’s INS Hansa facility using a 283 metre mock ski-jump facility. They were there for trials on the Indian Navy’s Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF). They showcased their ski-jump ability as well as their compatibility to operate from India’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC).
Earlier this year Rafale Marine (M) of Dassault Aviation was in India to showcase the compatibility of their fighter jets with the aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy which uses Ski-jump to launch a fighter.
Rafale-M Vs F/A-18 Super Hornet
The government tried to avoid a single vendor situation; hence both the companies sent their aircraft for trials during different times to India. As has been reported earlier, both Rafale (M) and F/A-18 Super Hornet are originally designed to operate from aircraft carriers which have catapult mechanisms. And if selected they will have to make minor modifications to enable them to operate from IAC-1.
Both companies have already been in talks with the customer and the government and have offered their machines for fulfilling the requirement of IAC-1 which will be commissioned in the Indian Navy next month to commemorate 75 years of Independence.
Whichever fighter jet navy will get, France and the US and India all share similar views related to keeping the maritime lanes open and free for all. They also share the same views on freedom of navigation, maritime domain awareness and laws.
France has recently asserted that it is an “Indo-Pacific country’’. It has also stated, according to reports, that it is keen to develop closer relationships with neighbouring countries and India is at the centre of this strategy.
The US is part of the recently formed AUKUS (Australia, the US and the UK and it is also part of I2U2 (West Asia QUAD).
Which fighter jet will it be for the Indian Navy?
According to sources both fighters performed well during trials at INS Hansa in Goa this year.
Indian Air Force has inducted Rafale fighter jets in service. And the French company has been offering the naval version of the same aircraft for the Indian Navy, which would help in building on commonality.
As reported earlier, what Boeing has offered is a twin seater and Rafale-M is a single seater and this means there is no twin-seater trainer.
F/A-18 has an electronic warfare version. The Indian Navy is interested in this version.
When the deal is finalized the size of the aircraft will also be taken into consideration. This is important as it will give an idea of how many assets can be on board the aircraft carrier.
Financial Express Online has reported earlier that the Request for Information was floated for procuring 57 twin engine fighter jets. However, this has now been downsized to 26 multi-role carrier borne fighters (MRCBF). The 26 include eight twin seater trainer variants and the balance 18 will be single seat variants.
These aircraft are expected to replace the ageing MiG-29 K fighters and due to the long drawn war between Russia and Ukraine, the upgrade kits for these are getting delayed.
There is also an urgency to get aircraft to operate from the carriers as China is expanding its presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
With the government’s focus on Atmanirbhar Bharat, the naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft is in the process of undergoing different levels of tests.
Indian Navy is planning to buy indigenous LCA to replace the ageing fighters it already has, according to officials. The aircraft has successfully completed several trials and has joined an elite group of countries that have the capability to design a light fighter jet which can land and take off from a carrier.