Boeing’s F/A-18E Super Hornet and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale M aircraft earlier this year completed a series of demonstration flights to show adaptability to Indian conditions. A detailed report on their performance is being prepared, a source said
Looking to pick up some deck-based fighter jets for its indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) Vikrant, the Indian Navy is faced with a choice – Boeing’s F/A-18E Super Hornet or Dassault Aviation’s Rafale M aircraft.
The Indian Navy had initiated the process to acquire 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its aircraft carrier around four years ago.
The navy could initially pick up around 30 jets.
At present, the navy operates Russian-origin MiG-29K fighters from its sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.
Let’s take a brief look at the companies’ presence in the Indian military, their fighter planes, the trials, and what choice the navy could make:
As per The Print, both companies have a significant presence within the Indian military.
The IAF operates both Rafale and Mirage aircraft manufactured by Dassault Aviation, while Boeing, has delivered 11 C-17 transport aircraft, 22 Apache attack helicopters, 12 P-8Is long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, besides 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers.
The company also delivered two 777 aircraft in 2020 for the VVIP fleet that is used to fly both the President and Prime Minister of India.
Both Boeing’s F/A-18E Super Hornet and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale M aircraft have completed a series of demonstration flights to show adaptability to Indian conditions.
In May, two Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet fighter aircraft showcased their operational capability at the naval facility in Goa, while a similar exercise was carried out by the Rafale maritime fighter jet in January.
Financial Express Online reported 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), as per the report.
F/A-18 has an electronic warfare version. The Indian Navy is interested in this version, as per Financial Express Online.
The Rafale Marine (M), a single-seater, 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, as per the report.
Both US and France use a launch mechanism for fighter jets called the catapult assisted take-off but arrested recovery. India uses a mechanism called the short take-off but arrested recovery. The two are vastly different from each other and exert different stress on the jet as it takes off from the deck, as per The Tribune.
Meanwhile, US aviation major Boeing claimed their plane offers more to the Indian Navy than competitor Rafale M by French firm Dassault Aviation.
Torbjorn Sjogren, vice-president of international government and defence at Boeing, told The Print in an exclusive interview that the company has the right aircraft for both the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) and that and the Super Hornets are the US Navy’s clear choice for operations anywhere in the world.
“I mean, it [Super Hornets] is well designed, well developed between the Echo (single-seater) and the Foxtrot (twin-seater). Both of those are operated by the US Navy and both, by the way, can operate for the Indian Navy, as opposed to our competitor, which obviously has a little bit of a challenge with regard to its two-seater,” said Sjogren, referring to the inability of the Rafale M twin-seater to operate from an aircraft carrier.
So what’s the choice?
The navy isn’t showing its cards just yet.
A detailed report on both fighter planes’ performance is being prepared.
“Based on the report, we will move forward on the procurement process,” said one source adding the acquisition will be under the government-to-government framework.
“The trials are being done because the navy requires aircraft which can take off from carriers,” Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral SN Ghormade had said when asked about the procurement.
As per The Tribune, Ghormade made the remarks while addressing a conference to brief on a forthcoming international seminar on innovation in naval engineering and how Indian products will be showcased to countries in the Indian Ocean Region.
He said the choice between French and the US jets was a temporary arrangement as the Defence Research and Development Organisation was working on the twin engine deck-based fighter. The navy will rely on either Rafale-M or F/A-18 until then, he added.
The Request For Information issued by the navy for procurement of the deck-based fighter jets sought to know at what level of Transfer of Technology the companies are willing to share with India.
With inputs from agencies
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