Indian Navy Evaluating Trials of French Rafale and American F-18 Fighter Jets For $5 Billion Deal
© AP Photo / Remy de la MauviniereFrench Air Force Rafale manufactured by France's Dassault Aviation speeds above Le Bourget airport, north of Paris, during the 44th Paris Air Show, in France. (File)
© AP Photo / Remy de la Mauviniere
The Indian Navy currently operates a fleet of MIG-29K fighter aircraft from its two aircraft carriers. However, the Navy has been looking for more advanced aircraft for its aircraft carrier for almost a decade now. Moreover, the number of MIG-29s isn't considered sufficient for two aircraft carriers.
The Indian Navy is currently evaluating the reports of extensive trials of France’s Rafale fighter jets and American F-18s as it seeks to finalize a $5 billion defense deal for acquisition of 26 combat aircraft.
Indian officials told ANI news agency that the fighter aircraft will be acquired under a government-to-government contract and be deployed aboard India’s second aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which was officially commissioned into the Navy by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 2.
Officials said that the trials were held off the coast of Goa. The Navy headquarters is currently in the process of analyzing if the aircraft met the “technical specifications” of the Indian Navy.
While the F-18 Super Hornets, developed by Boeing, have been found to be compatible with aircraft carriers weighing 100,000 tons, the Rafale jets, developed by Dassault Aviation, are more suited for 60,000-ton carriers.
Boeing has claimed that its F-18 jets are compatible with both INS Vikrant and India’s first aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. Further, the American company has said that F-18 jets will enable “interface” with P-8 type surveillance drones as well as other American systems.
On the other hand, Indian defence forces are believed to be more familiar with the Rafale jets through recent acquisition of 36 combat aircraft from France under a $5.6 billion deal signed in 2016.
This is not the first time that the Rafale and F-18 jets have emerged as final contenders in an Indian Navy tender. Rafale had pipped the American jets as a favorite to replace Indian Navy’s Mig-29, but the deal couldn’t go through at the last minute.
However, the tender helped Dassault Aviation in winning the contract to supply fighter jets for the Indian Air Force in 2016.