The upcoming months of June and July are poised to be significant for the United States and France, as both nations are set to receive Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the state level. During his visits, there is anticipation that an announcement may be made regarding the winner of the Indian Navy’s fighter jet competition between Boeing and Dassault. The aerospace industry is eagerly awaiting a decision.
The Indian Navy has announced its decision to hand over the final verdict on the selection of the next generation fighter jets to the Government of India. Both the Rafale M by Dassault and the Super Hornet by Boeing have been deemed to meet the Navy’s technical criteria, making it difficult for the Navy to make a clear-cut choice between the two.
The US administration is actively supporting Boeing’s efforts to secure India’s first-ever fighter jet contract. The Indian government is facing pressure from the US to select the F-18 as its deck-based fighter aircraft, in part due to the assistance that the US Navy has provided in the development of India’s Aviation Trial Regiment. The US Navy’s experience could be critical in helping India develop larger aircraft carriers equipped with an Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), which may require additional support from the US.
The Rafale M holds an edge due to its commonality with the existing Rafale fleet of the Indian Air Force, but the Navy has left the decision up to the government, which is expected to make a well-informed choice based on strategic and diplomatic considerations.
This development comes after months of intense evaluation and scrutiny of the two aircraft by the Indian Navy, which had to assess various factors such as technical capabilities, pricing, after-sales support, and the transfer of technology. The Rafale M, a naval variant of the Rafale, has already been inducted into the French Navy, making it a proven and battle-tested platform. On the other hand, the Super Hornet has been in service with the US Navy for decades, with a proven track record of reliability and versatility.
With both aircraft meeting the Navy’s technical requirements, the decision to hand over the final verdict to the Government of India underscores the complexity of the selection process and the strategic importance of the decision. It is now up to the government to evaluate all relevant factors, including geopolitical considerations and the long-term impact on the country’s military capabilities, before making a final call. The decision is expected to be a significant milestone for India’s defence industry and the country’s strategic partnerships with France and the US.