SOURCE: TIMES NOW
On Monday, American aircraft manufacturer Boeing announced that its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter successfully completed ski-jump trials, effectively paving the way for its use by the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers.
Boeing has been testing its Super Hornet fighter using a ground-based ski-jump at the Naval Air Sation near Patuxent River in Maryland so as to provide assurances to the Indian Navy that it will be suitable for induction onto the INS Vikramaditya, the INS Vikrant expected to be commissioned by 2022, and the INS Vishal which currently remains at the drawing board stage.
The Navy was scheduled to send a team to visit the Naval Air Station earlier this year but the trip had to be deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant have been built using the Short Take-Of But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) where fighter aircraft go airborne via a ski-jump slope at the end of the flight deck. However, US Navy aircraft carriers that already have fleets of the Super Hornets use Catapult Assisted Take-Off Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) platforms where aircraft are accelerated through steam or electromagnetic catapults.
Boeing is hopeful that, in displaying that its Super Hornet can take to the skies from India’s aircraft carriers, it will become the front-runner to win the Navy’s procurement tender that Dassault, with its Rafale aircraft, is also competing for.
Where do complications arise from?
However, Boeing’s latest success may not be enough for it to clinch a deal with the Indian Navy. Earlier this month, reports stated that the Navy was seeking to combine its multi-role carrier-based fighter jet procurement tender along with the Indian Air Force’s own tender for 114 jets that is already underway.
This move comes on the back of a reported decision to reduce the number of jets to be procured in light of the indigenous development proposal put forth by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation.
The DRDO, along with the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), are currently in the process of developing an indigenous Twin Engine Carrier-Based Deck Fighter (TEBDF) specifically to meet the specifications of India’s aircraft carriers. Navy officials have expressed hopes that the TBDRF would enter service in the early 2030s.
The Navy, in 2017, floated a Request For Information (RFI) globally for the procurement of 57 fighter jets. However, with the indigenous jet now under development, coupled with budgetary restrictions, it has sought to reduce the number of jets to be procured from 57 to 36. A final decision is, reportedly, yet to be made though.
The decision to combine its tender with that of the IAF’s also attracts further complications. While the IAF was seeking both, single and twin-engine fighters, the Navy’s stated requirement is solely that of twin-engine jets.