New Delhi: As the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy expand -- their fighter-jet needs are to be met over the next decade -- US giant Boeing has offered to participate in the ‘make in India’ to build an indigenous industrial base that can produce world class planes – the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet.
The twin-engined plane has a version that is for the IAF and also for ship-deck based operations of the Indian Navy’s sea-borne aircraft carriers -- the INS Vikramaditya, the under construction INS Vikrant and the under planning 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier.
Thom Breckenridge, Vice President, Global Sales –India, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, told Bharat Defence
Vice President, Global Sales – India
Global Sales & Marketing
Boeing Defense, Space &Security
Kavach (BDK): “We are having ongoing discussion with the IAF, Indian Navy and India’s Ministry of Defence on the best way for India to meet its fighter needs while building an indigenous industrial base”.
Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet is the world’s pre-eminent carrier-capable multirole aircraft. It is a combat proven, supersonic fighter jet with a defined U.S. Navy flight plan to outpace threats into the 2040’s.
For India’s needs Boeing has completed extensive analysis and done some testing on F/A-18s compatibility with Indian aircraft carriers. “We have assessed that the Super Hornet is capable of launching off a ski-jump carrier and could be operated from Indian carriers,” said Breckenridge amply hinting that the plane can perform from the ski-jump, that is predominate in Indian carriers.
On January 26, the Indian Navy issued a request for information (RFI) to global makers seeking a 57 'Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters' (MRCBFs) to augment its operational capability. Navy has already ordered 45 of the twin-engined MiG 29-K from Russia, some of which have arrived and inducted. The need for additional 57 has come about at the naval variant of the Light Combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas, could meet the requirement of carrier based operations.
The Indian Navy wants the aircraft capable of operations during day and night, and in all weather conditions; and be suitable for shipborne air defence, air-to-surface, 'buddy-buddy' aerial re-fuelling, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and other unspecified roles from its aircraft carriers. It wants MRCBF to perform Short Take-off But Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) or Catapult Take-off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) operations (or both); whether the aircraft is already in operational use or not; whether helmet-mounted displays and large-area displays are integrated and fitted; is auto-landing an option; and whether or not an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is fitted.
The Navy’s RFI makes Boeing as a prime contender.
“Boeing is prepared to bring its global scale and supply chain, its best-in-industry precision manufacturing processes, as well as the company’s unrivaled experience designing and optimizing aerospace production facilities to bear in expanding India’s aerospace ecosystem and helping to realize the Make in India vision,” Breckenridge said.
Introduced in 2007, the Super Hornet is the most advanced aircraft of its kind in operation today with designed-in stealth, an AESA radar and more highly integrated mission systems than any other aircraft. It is a modern fighter that can match and tackle tomorrow's threats. The F/A-18 Super Hornet is a supersonic, all weather multirole fighter jet that is capable of landing and taking off from an aircraft carrier. Every Super Hornet has been delivered on cost and on schedule.
Boeing offers a suite of upgrades to the F/A-18 Super Hornet, including conformal fuel tanks, an enclosed weapons pod, an enhanced engine and a reduced radar signature. These capabilities, along with other advanced technologies, offer U.S. and international customers a menu of next-generation capabilities to outpace future threats affordably.
The IAF and Boeing:
The IAF has a need for additional twin engine aircraft as the Indian Air Force (IAF) retires its Jaguars, MIG and Mirage aircraft. It’s in the category of two-engined medium weight fighter jets that India can break the shackles of being import dependent in military equipment.
The Boeing F/A-18 super hornet is one of the few twin-engined planes which have an Air force as well as Naval variant. This will reduce inventories and training costs. IAF has a large inventory and is looking to narrow it down. As off now Sukhoi-30MKI for the heavy eight category, The Mirage 2000, Jaguar, MiG-29, Rafale form the medium weight, while MiG-27, MiG-21, Tejas are the lighter category.
The selection of the medium weight fighter will depend on multiple things – the readiness to produce in India, making it a platform that will last till 2050, should have capability for additions and be multi-role besides having the possibility of a Naval variant
Beyond offering the most advanced capability to the IAF, the Super Hornet, with more composite content than its competitors, it is uniquely positioned as a bridge to the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program. The AMCA is being made by the Aeronautical Development Agency and the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO).
One of the options for India is to get a top-of-the-line foreign partner and build a world-class fifth generation stealth platform like AMCA, that can not only be used by the Indian Air Force but also have a Naval variant.