India's future airborne fighter: the Rafale M outperforms the F-18
India's future airborne fighter: the Rafale M outperforms the F-18
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| Gaétan Powis | Source : Air&Cosmos 333 mots

India's future airborne fighter: the Rafale M outperforms the F-18

The Indian Ministry of Defense has reportedly received reports of Rafale M and Super Hornet land-based tests, and it appears that the Rafale is far more suitable for Indian naval aviation operations than the Super Hornet. The decision is now political.

Rafale vs F-18 in India

India is looking to acquire around 26 combat aircraft to replace some of the 43 MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB Fulcrum. Several aircrafts were considered, but the final duel was between Dassault Aviation's Rafale M and Boeing's F/A-18E Super Hornet. Both aircraft are already in service on aircraft carriers: Rafale M in the French Navy and Super Hornet in the US Navy. However, these aircraft carriers are all CATOBARs, using catapults to project the aircrafts and arresting gear to brake the aircraft on landing. However, the brand new INS Vikrant (Vikrant class) and the older INS Vikramaditya (Kiev class modernized in India, acquired second hand from the USSR) are both STOBAR aircraft carriers: they keep the arresting gears but are not equipped with catapults. A ski-jump was added to be able to assist the takeoff of the planes.

The Rafale dominates according to reports

Shore tests on a replica of the ski-jump were then organized by the Indian Navy, Dassault and Boeing. Now, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper, a first official source but wanting to remain anonymous, a report has been passed on the testing of the two aircrafts and that the Indian Ministry of Defense is expected to make a decision soon. A second unnamed official source also gave more details on the reports' findings, including:

"The Rafale M has been found to be a better fit for the navy's requirements."

It should be remembered that nothing is yet decided for the Rafale M in India: the official decision has not yet been made... even though the Rafale M now seems to have taken a good lead over the Super Hornet. The Indian Armed Forces are no strangers to the Rafale, as the Indian Air Force (IAF) had 8 Rafale DHs and 18 Rafale EHs at the beginning of 2022. According to Dassault and in order to facilitate maintenance of future Rafale M aircraft, the latter would have 85% of elements in common with the IAF's Rafales.


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