New Delhi: With the arrival of two Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets on May 20, the stage is set for the fighter aircraft to showcase their ski-jump from the shore-based test facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa in Goa. The fighter will undergo a series of drills starting this week and project their capabilities to operate from Indian aircraft carriers.
The two aircraft have undergone mechanical and software changes for the demonstration. In 2020, Boeing first demonstrated STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery) jump at its own testing facility in the US
for the Indian Navy. The aircraft will perform ski-jump take-off with and without a payload. The payload will include two dummy Harpoon missiles.
In January 2022, Rafale M of Dassault Aviation showed its ski-jump capability to the Indian Navy which is looking at getting a new set of fighters as India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier gets set to be commissioned in August this year. The Navy currently operates the MiG-29K from the INS Vikramaditya and is looking at about 26 multi-role deck-based fighters for its aircraft carrier. The Indian Navy had initiated the process to acquire 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its aircraft carrier over four years back.
Boeing executives will also be briefing Indian Navy officers about the aircraft’s capabilities vis-a –vis Rafale M, besides the ski-jump capability. According to Boeing, its single-seater and twin-seater are both capable of operating from the aircraft carrier and the Super Hornets are compatible with systems and platforms that the Indian Navy already operates or has acquired — MH-60 Romeo anti-submarine helicopters, P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime aircraft. Moreover, the aircraft can carry more anti-ship missiles and will become more potent with all assets talking to each other and giving a holistic view of the zone of operations.
Based on the performance of both the aircraft – Super Hornets and Rafale M, the Navy will go for one that is most compatible with its overall growth plans.