India Navy is expected to soon decide which fighter aircraft it is keen to buy for its aircraft carriers. The two aircraft which were in race include US based Boeing Company’s Super Hornet or F/A-18 jets and French Dassault Aviation’s Rafale Marine.
Both India and France are keen to strengthen their strategic and defence cooperation in and during the 4th India-France Defence Dialogue taking place in New Delhi the two sides will review the bilateral military relations as well as discuss the possibility of procuring more fighter jets from Dassault Aviation – Rafale. France, as reported earlier, has offered these fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) as well as the marine version for the Indian Navy. Financial Express Online has reported earlier that the Air Force is keen to get 114 new combat aircraft for its depleting fleet besides the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’.
Is France ready to make it in India?
The French side has said that to set a production line in India they would need a committed order of around 100 aircraft. And if India decides to purchase more Rafale for Air Force it will be much cheaper than the previous 36 fighters that are now already in service. Why? “Because the main component of money was paid for research and development, certification and modification for India Specific Enhancements. Since India Specific Enhancements are all ready, in case more orders are placed it will be cheaper,” explained a senior officer on condition of anonymity.
Also there will be no extra expenditure involved as training and bases are all set here in India. And the two bases where the 36 fighters are based can accommodate more Rafale fighters easily. If India decides to go ahead with French fighters then these will not have any offsets obligation under the new procurement policy.
Financial express Online has reported earlier that earlier this year the French company had offered the marine version for the Indian Navy. The Indian Navy is looking to procure around 27 fighter jets for its aircraft carrier. On Monday this too will be on the table for discussions as the French Minister for Armed forces is also visiting INS Vikrant.
Views of Indian Navy Veterans
According to Cmde. Ranjit Rai (Retd): “With INS Vikrant and Vikramaditya, the decision for a better aircraft than MiG-29k which may not be able to take the full weapon load all the time, in all weather conditions is being looked at. And I think the most proven aircraft in the world from aircraft carriers flown by the marines of America is the F18. It is a fabulous piece of machine although the French Rafale, the Air Force, is flying very well.”
Adding, “But the Rafale still gives some problems to my knowledge and they have converted, the Swedish Gripen is trying to convert, so depending on the money aspects or international relations with countries and the evaluation is taking place, the Indian navy has always evaluated well.”
Says VAdm Vinod Pasricha (Retd), “As it stands, we are looking at both these aircrafts. The Rafale has been bought and we are looking at the other F-18 Hornet at the moment and we have not yet decided. Also at the moment, our aircraft carrier is the new one, we are not sure whether it would be able to operate the aircraft because what has been designed is for the MiG-29 which we are using with Russian technology for the arresting gear.”
“The ski jump is good enough to launch it but for the arrester I am not 100 percent sure whether it will work so once we decide which of the two aircraft we want I think we should also ensure that the next aircraft carrier IAC2 which is under design gets the technology so that we can use these aircraft on that either way it is a decision which I think is premature at this time,” he opines.