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Because of India, Boeing is testing short takeoffs and landings of F/A-18E/F fighters

This post was published in Defence24. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.

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WARSAW, (BM) – Boeing is conducting tests of shortened take-offs and landings of F / A-18E / F Super Hornet aircraft. The point is to prove that they could operate not only from large aircraft carriers of the US Navy, but also from units more than twice smaller, such as Indian aircraft carriers. Will “Hornets” prove to be a golden mean for the Indian Army and Navy?

One of the countries that will become the owner of a significant aircraft carrier fleet in the coming years is India, which currently operates a single aircraft, but already another one is in trials. Currently, however, the problem for the Indians is not the ships, but the aircrafts they carry, and more precisely multi-purpose combat aircraft.

New Delhi has long expressed dissatisfaction with the Russian MiG-29K aircraft it has and is looking for a replacement for them. There is loud talk in this context about the creation of an on-board variant of the native light fighters (LCI) HAL Tejas. However, it may be difficult to create an on-board plane on your own, and the parameters of a small Tejas, especially the range and carrying capacity – too modest for the needs of carrier groups.

In this situation, it is no wonder that India has just started to coquette the American company Boeing, which produces in large numbers the proven 4 generation on-board fighters, the F / A-18E / F Super Hornet. American planes are without a shadow of a doubt the best on-board aircraft in their class currently in service in the world.

The F-35C may not take their primacy until the F-35C, which, however, will not start service until next year and its program is plagued by numerous delays. Meanwhile, the Super Hornet is a construction with a long range (operating radius of 722 km) and lifting capacity (over 8 tons, 11 points of suspension for weapons) and, in addition, proven during two decades of intensive use.

The only aspect to which the aircraft has not been tested, and which is crucial from India’s point of view, is its ability to operate from smaller carriers equipped with a Ski Jump launch pad. These are the kinds of trials and demonstrations that are being conducted in the United States this summer. Boeing currently uses the land-based Ski Jump platform at the Patuxent River base for this purpose. Here, too, short landings are attempted using aerofinishers.

As a Boeing spokesman told The War Zone portal, the company conducted extensive analyzes and over 150 simulations regarding the compatibility between the F / A-18E / F of the latest Block III version and Indian aircraft carriers. The results are expected to be disclosed soon.

And there is something to test. While Super Hornets are currently used only on large US Navy aircraft carriers with a length of 333 meters and a displacement of 100-105 thousand. tons, the Indian ships are much more modest. The only currently serving unit – INS Vikramaditya – is a rebuilt Soviet heavy air cruiser Baku, which was originally not adapted to carry classic fighters at all, but only Yak-38 helicopters and powered-lifts.

Currently, this unit with a standard displacement of 33.5 thousand. tonnes and a total length of 283 meters are carried by 26 MiG-29K planes and 10 helicopters. The INS Vikrant, which is currently being built with difficulty, will be slightly larger (40-44 thousand tons, 262 m long) and will have a similar air group. Only the third aircraft carrier – Vishal is to be larger, with a displacement of 65 thousand. tone. However, his entry into service is planned only in the 1930s and it is a song of the future.

The Indian Super Hornets would therefore operate from much more modest units than those used by the Americans. In addition, they are clearly heavier than the MiG-29K (maximum take-off weight of around 30 tons compared to 25 tons in the case of the MiG).

Nevertheless, a possible replacement of the fleet with Boeing planes could pay off. The capabilities of the F / A-18E / F, especially Block III, are incomparably greater than in the case of the MiG-29K, and the Americans propose Super Hornets in a package with land homing machines (in the MMRCA medium fighter program – Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) with creating production plants in India, which could also be used in the program of the Indian future combat aircraft AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft).

The choice of the Super Hornet in the MMRCA program would have the advantage over its competitors that India would receive a design proven both as an on-board machine and a land-based homing machine (in this capacity they serve in Australia and Kuwait).

It is worth mentioning that Boeing has delivered several modern military structures to India in recent years, including: CH-47 Chinook heavy transport helicopters, AH-64E Apache Guardian combat helicopters, P-8I Poseidon sea patrol aircraft and C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport aircraft.

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