Thursday, 20 January 2022

F-18 US fighter operation demo in Goa for INS Vikrant

F-18 US fighter operation demo in Goa for INS Vikrant

US defense major Boeing is planning an operational demonstration of F-18 Super Hornet carrier-based fighter at the shore-based test facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa in Goa in April-May this year as a possible contender for Indian Navy's sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and soon to be commissioned INS Vikrant. The Indian aircraft carriers use ski-jump to launch the fighters with arrested recovery through the net.

According to officials in the knowledge of the matter in Washington and New Delhi, the US Navy conducted ski-jump trials of F-18 fighter at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland in US or Pax river in December 2020. Still, the Indian Navy team could not attend the demonstration due to travel restrictions on the coronavirus pandemic. However, the US Navy shared extensive data of the ski jump trials with the Indian Navy. A year later, in December 2021, both the US Navy and the aircraft manufacturer did a site inspection of SBTF at INS Hansa in the presence of Indian Navy officials.

While presently the operational demonstration of Rafale-Marine is on at the INS Hansa as the other option for Indian aircraft carriers, both the twin-engine aircraft are virtual of the same later 1990s vintage and the same 4.5 generation.

F 18 US fighter operation demo in Goa for INS Vikrant 1unsplash image

Read More: Pakistan acquires 25 China-made JS-10 fighter jets to counter India

Even as the Indian Navy will be evaluating both aircraft, the F-18 is a two-seater fighter, which is more suitable to carrier-based operations for better orientation at sea. Rafale-M is a single-seater fighter, while it has a two-seater trainer that can only be operated from the shore.

The other important factor favoring the F-18 is fitting the INS Vikramaditya, or INS Vikrant lift with folded wings without compromising operational readiness.

In the case of Rafale-M, the fighter will only fit carrier lift after the aircraft's wingtips are removed as the branches cannot be folded and the span is more than that of a folded F-18 fighter.

Aviation experts say that an adapter platform will have to be fitted for F-18 Super Hornet as it allows faster movement of jets from the lower deck to the deck under combat and high seas conditions.

Although France and the US are close allies of India, the Modi government will also consider the license, maintenance, and spare parts issues. It cannot afford to be caught on the wrong foot in a rapidly changing security environment.

Under no circumstances, the Modi government will allow India's strategic autonomy and operational readiness to be compromised.

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