The Indian Navy will begin flight trials of Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet carrier-based multi-role fighters on May 23 at the shore-based test facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa in Goa. The US fighter jets are one of the contenders for 26 fighters onboard the INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, which will be commissioned soon.
Two US Navy fighter jets are expected to land in INS Hansa by this week to take off from the 283-meter mock-up deck of India’s sole aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya. The aircraft carrier is scheduled to return to service next month after undergoing a significant repair.
The Indian Navy is planning to purchase 26 multi-role jet fighters for INS Vikrant, with eight of them being two-seaters that will be utilised for both flight training and operations. The Super Hornet is a tried-and-true weapon platform with an internal rotary cannon and 11 hardpoints for air to air and air to surface missiles and laser-guided bunker-busting bombs.
The Rafale Maritime Strike Fighter is another contender for the INS Vikrant, which is set to be commissioned by the Indian Prime Minister on August 15, 2022. In January 2022, the Indian Navy tested the Rafale fighter, with the French offering four aircraft on lease for initial training and operational purposes. The Indian Air Force has already purchased 36 Rafale multi-role jets, with two large maintenance depots in Ambala and West Bengal.
If the Indian Navy opts for the Super Hornet, it will strengthen ties with the United States, the world’s largest operator of carrier-based fighter jets. The Super Hornet has interoperability with the Boeing P8I and Lockheed Martin MH-60 R anti-submarine warfare helicopters that India ordered for the Navy.
The Super Hornet and the Rafale-M may be utilised on the Indian Navy’s INS Vikrant and INS Vikramaditya, which use STOBAR technology to launch and land aircraft from aircraft carriers. Russian and Chinese aircraft carriers also use this technology.
With the commissioning of INS Vikrant this year, the Indian Navy will have two aircraft carriers and two ballistic missile strategic submarines, making it a powerful force. The Indian Navy, unlike the Chinese, has five decades of experience operating aircraft carriers all year.