Indian Navy Carrier Jet War Hots Up, Boeing Focuses Fire

The Indian Navy’s multirole carrier borne fighter (MRCBF) contest just got a little hotter with Boeing today making it a point to amplify and detail the F/A-18E/F Block III Super Hornet’s ‘full compatibility’ with India’s current and future aircraft carriers. The company asserted today that the aircraft requires ‘no modifications’ to operate ‘with meaningful weapons loadouts’ from the ski-jump of the INS Vikramaditya, Vikrant-class and follow on aircraft carriers, adding a dimension of intrigue and intensity to a contest that is widely being seen as a direct dogfight with the Dassault Rafale. We’ll go into the significance of today’s comments in a moment, but first, here’s a quick video where we catch up with Boeing’s Vice President on the Super Hornet programme, Dan Gillian.

Now, here’s how the state of play adds up as Livefist sees it:

  • Boeing has dismissed reports that the F/A-18 is too big for the hangar elevators on the INS Vikramaditya and the under-construction Vikrant class aircraft carrier. The company confirmed today that the Block III Super Hornet requires no modifications for full operations on either of these carriers. Discussions are currently ongoing with the Indian Navy. What appears unclear is if the dimensional clearances in the elevators are too small for comfortable deck handling. If no modifications are imposed on both the aircraft and the shaft systems of the carrier elevators, how much of a trade off would it be for other parameters, including turnaround and sortie generation? A bit of a grey call right now.
  • The emphasis on ski-jump operations compatibility — a capability that Boeing’s rival Dassault also claims on the Rafale — only amplifies the distance from an Indian Navy decision on whether its new class of aircraft carrier (IAC-2) will employ CATOBAR (steam or electro-magnetic) or a ski jump like the Vikramaditya and Vikrant.
  • If both the Super Hornet and Rafale both claim full operations capability from a ski-jump carrier, any technical toss-up would have to be between on weapons payload, cost per flight hour and range. Data on payload and range capabilities of either aircraft in ski jump operations remains unavailable (or unreleased). Boeing claims, however, that it has the lowest cost per flight hour of ‘any frontline fighter’.
  • Does the emphasis on ski-jump compatibility indicate a recognition that the Indian Navy could potentially simply exercise the option to purchase more MiG-29K fighters going forward? That doesn’t seem likely, given (a) the MRCBF contest is specifically borne from the Indian Navy’s need for a higher performance fighter, and (b) the Indian Navy contest will necessarily have synergies with the Indian Air Force’s future requirements.
  • Boeing says it is looking forward to putting into action what it has done in detailed simulations since at least 2008. The last time anything close to this capability happened was when a legacy F-18 Hornet took off from a ski-jump in the eighties.
  • Boeing sees recent reports of the IAF’s interest in doubling its order for Rafales to 72 aircraft as ‘positive’. Why? That’s answered in the video below with Boeing India chief Pratyush Kumar, the man driving the company’s continued performance in the Indian market, the latest win being the Indian Army’s imminent contract for six AH-64E Apache helicopters as part of options on the original IAF deal for 22.


5 thoughts on “Indian Navy Carrier Jet War Hots Up, Boeing Focuses Fire”

  1. so according to boeing ,migs which protected indian skies for decades suddenly a junk??

    even boeing india team does not have inner working access to technologies which they want to sell in india.

    just like mig29k , every single part will come from USA in case of brakedown for f18, iac 2 is 15 years away.

  2. Boeing wants to sell us its legacy F-18 which the US forces and its allies are replacing with JSFs. The campaign against the MIG-29K has been carefully orchestrated .The same aircraft flies with the IAF with no problems.However,if there are problems,the MIG corp. should rectify them and it would be far easier rectifying any faults than buying another type and trying to squeeze it into two carriers which were never designed to operate the aircraft. Unfortunately,there seem to be some in the IN who want another carrier tailor made not for the IN’s requirements but for the USN’s requirements! IN reality we would be paying for another carrier that practically would serve the USN’s interests in combating China. A large carrier plus all the accompanying warships,subs,etc.,would be simply unaffordable. Instead a dozen long range supersonic Backfire bombers based in S.India could easily deal with any PLAN surface threat .

    The greater priority is to asap increase the number of subs in the IN which has fallen dramatically. China will possess almost 80-100 subs by 2020,Pak will get 8 new YUan subs from China too and we will need at least 36-40 subs both nuclear and conventional AIP subs simply to counter the Sino-Pak challenge. F-18s are not a priority at all,subs are.

    1. AIK Boing still supplying FA-18 to USAF, first FA-18 entered in service only in 1999. So, FA-18 won’t be replaced before 2030.

  3. I think it’s totally waste of time and taxpayer money If we really want something so it would be F35 LightiningII like fighter under true transfer of technology either go with TejasII which is worth because at war like situation only home technology can stay with you if you hard work for f16 which will even not started it would take 2022 at that time whole world fly 5th Gen fighter and many started Israel japan …etc please save the every penny of India don’t go with 4th Gen fighter jet …

  4. Mr.Aroor,
    Boeing and Lockheed,are not as enthusiastic to set up shop in India as you portray them to be.Yes they will ,if allowed, set up a production line in India sans transfer of technology.Russia is more likely to transfer technology if do you really think India has Tech. competent people to absorb it or work with it.In my humble opinion,India does not have means to absorb or use advanced Tech.I follow aircrafts since 60s and I can tell you this Tejas is not a 4++ aircraft as you are saying.It is design fro 60-70s Swedish Drakken,
    Sorry if I have misconstrued your thoughts

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