We were being driven between the two flanks of the US Navy’s Lemoore Naval Air Station in California last to last week, when Boeing’s Mike Reitz (programme manager for the Boeing’s MMRCA bid) told us about the Navy’s query. Interestingly, the query apparently came in quite recently about whether the Super Hornet could operate seamlessly off the INS Vikramaditya as well. What’s important to note here is that the Navy isn’t interested in buying the Super Hornet. It was a query that was possible initiated by the Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) which sustains the somewhat ignored responsibility to engineer acquisitions in such a way as to benefit all three services if possible. Reports coming seem to suggest that the Navy wants to buy a few Super Hornets for itself, but this is untrue, though Boeing’s response certainly creates more options.
Once the query was received, Boeing procured general parameters of the Gorshkov from the Indian Navy — including length, ski-jump angle, angled deck characteristics — in short everything required for a simulation. Fed into a system, the simulation suggested, supposedly in no uncertain terms, that the Super Hornet — which so far was dogmatically associated with a steam-catapult launcher — could indeed take off from a conventional carrier deck like that of the Gorshkov, Virat or the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (which, in all likelihood, is set to be the second INS Vikrant). Boeing added as an adjunct in its response to the Navy, that the Super Hornet could not only take-off and land reliably on such carriers, but that it could do so with a respectable weapons load, which is the whole point. The simulated aircraft took off with a six-pylon config with close-combat, intermediate air-to-air and anti-ship munitions.
Now we can debate endlessly about what the Navy’s query is all about!