SOURCE: VINAYAK SHETTY / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
After rejecting LCA-Navy, Indian Navy issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking details from global aircraft maker which can offer Indian navy carrier-borne combat aircraft with minimum projected requirement for 57 multi-role carrier-borne fighters.
RFI which is available for Public viewing indicates the Government plans to procure 57 carrier-borne aircraft eventually through Defence Procurement Procedure 2016 and will require deliveries of the aircraft to commence within three years post contract which needs to be completed within three years once deliveries commence.
RFI has sought a response from interested vendors within four months .whose who will be shortlisted with then be asked to submit Request for Proposal (RFP). Bidders have to be open to the transfer of technology and licensed production in India. Navy also asks vendors if they are open to integrating weapons, sensors of its choice and also asks vendors to provide further information if it would be possible to integrate existing and future weapons, avionics systems of Indian, Russian and western origins.
RFI has no clarity if the carrier-borne requirement is for single-engine or a twin engine aircraft but does ask about single-engine recovery capacity in the case of twin-engine fighters. Since Indian Navy will be operating Two STOBAR aircraft carriers and one CATOBAR aircraft carrier in future, RFI has asked vendors for flight manuals for operations from STOBAR and CATOBAR aircraft carriers.
Aircraft requirement put forward asks for a multi-role deck based combat aircraft that is expected to undertake missions ranging from Air defence, Air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance, electronic warfare missions from Indian Navy aircraft carriers.
RFI stipulates that in Operation Clean Configuration (OCC) for the aircraft will involve carriage of four Beyond visual range (BVR) missiles and Two Close combat Air-to-Air missile with 75 percent internal fuel and 100 percent gun ammunition.
Indian Navy wants a Carrier-borne fighter jet which is certified for operations from both STOBAR and CATOBAR aircraft carriers. But the irony is that no aircraft is certified for both STOBAR and CATOBAR configuration but Boeing has claimed that its F-18 Super hornet has been simulated for STOBAR aircraft carriers and is already performing CATOBAR operations from US Naval aircraft carriers thus becoming the first contender.
Dassault’s Rafale M can also theoretically operate from STOBAR and CATOBAR aircraft carriers but it is yet to be confirmed by Dassault Aviation but they have already confirmed that they will respond to Navy’s RFI indicating Rafale M can be reconfigured for STOBAR operations too.
The dark horse in the race will be Lockheed Matin’s F-35C which too theoretically can operate from STOBAR and CATOBAR aircraft carriers but it is anybody’s guess work if Lockheed will respond to RFI.
Indian Navy already has rejected idea of operating another vertical take-off and landing aircraft after the retirement of its Sea Harrier fleet thus unofficially eliminating Lockheed martin’s F-35B.