US F-18 and French Rafale begin tests on an Indian aircraft carrier

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NEW DELHI, ($1=74.30 Indian Rupees) – As announced in October 2021, the Rafale Marine will be evaluated by the Indian Navy from January 6, as part of its MRCBF [Multi Role Carrier Borne Fighters] program, which aims to acquire, according to current plans, 57 new fighter-bombers on board for its naval air force.

Photo credit: Naval News

As a reminder, the Indian Navy wants a device that can be used both from an aircraft carrier in STOBAR configuration [equipped with templin] and CATOBAR [with catapults and stop wires] to ensure air defense missions, reconnaissance, strike, and electronic warfare. This assumes a fairly significant payload capacity and high-performance sensors, such as, for example, an active-antenna radar [AESA – Active Electronically Scanned Array]. Two types of aircraft are preferred: the Rafale Marine from Dassault Aviation and the F / A-18 Super Hornet from Boeing.

According to the Indian press, the Rafale Marine will therefore be subjected to “intensive” tests for nearly twelve days, from the land test facility [SBTF] at the INS Hansa naval base in Goa. This will include checking its ability to take off from a 283-meter-long flight deck equipped with a springboard, such as that of INS Vikrant, the first Indian-designed aircraft carrier to be admitted to the active service is scheduled for August 2022. And also to see if its dimensions are compatible with the elevators installed onboard this ship.

Theoretically, and according to a study cited by Mer & Marine in 2012, the Rafale Marine can take off from an aircraft carrier in STOBAR configuration. And that, without modification of structure compared to the apparatuses of the French Navy.

The F / A-18 Super Hornet, which will be evaluated by the Indian Navy under similar conditions next March, has already taken off with a springboard, as part of a test campaign carried out in 2020 at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River. However, the Boeing fighter-bomber is going through a bad commercial period [with failures in Switzerland, Finland, and Canada, three countries equipped with F / A-18 Hornets], which is sure to have consequences for the entire world. industrial level.

Either way, if the Rafale M tests are successful, then the Indian Navy could lease four or five from France. This is indeed what the daily Hindustan Times claims.

“There is a strong possibility that the Indian navy will ask the French manufacturer to hire four to five Rafale M in 2022 so that the aircraft carrier [INS Vikrant] is made operational”, it writes, noting that India “already has a maintenance and training center for the Rafale piloting at Ambala airbase ”.

It would thus be a question of remedying the difficulties which the Indian naval aviation is encountering with its onboard MiG-29K fighters, acquired from Russia. The maintenance of these is made complicated by supply concerns of spare parts. In addition, this fleet has a fairly high attrition rate, with 9% of the 45 aircraft delivered having been lost between 2017 and 2020.

Anyway, during her last trip to India, on December 17, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, had indicated to her Indian interlocutors that France would be able to provide Rafale M for the INS. Vikrant.

“We know that the [new] aircraft carrier will be in service soon and that planes will be needed. We are open and ready to provide Rafales if India decides,” Ms. Parly said, according to reports reported by the Indian press.

Note that India is still considering the construction of another aircraft carrier, which will be in CATOBAR configuration. This is expected to replace INS Vikramaditya once its construction is complete.


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