India to start testing naval version of Rafale for aircraft carrier Vikrant next week: report

The Indian Navy will begin testing the naval version of the Rafale fighter, called Rafale Maritime or Rafale-M, on January 6, according to a report from the Hindustan times said.

Testing of the Rafale-M will take place at the land ski jumping facility located at INS Hansa, a naval air base in Goa.

The aircraft will show its ability to take off from an Indian aircraft carrier type ski-jumping platform.

The Rafale-M is already in service with the French Navy, which uses it from its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. Unlike the two Indian carriers, which use ski jumping (short take-off but recovery stopped or STOBAR) to help planes take off from their bridges, the Frenchman Charles de Gaulle uses catapult-assisted take-off (catapult-assisted take-off but recovery stopped or CATOBAR).

In the STOBAR system, planes are launched from an aircraft carrier using their own power with a ski jump ramp on the bow of the aircraft carrier to aid take off. However, in the CATOBAR system, mechanical assistance is provided to the aircraft using a catapult, which is integrated into the cockpit of the transporter.

In both of these systems, stop cables, which quickly but smoothly decelerate an aircraft as it lands on the deck, are used for recovery.

To be considered by the Indian Navy as a replacement for its MiG-29K fleet, the Rafale M will have to demonstrate its ability to take off in STOBAR configuration.

Boeing’s F / A-18 Super Hornet, the other fighter vying for the Indian Navy deal, has already demonstrated its ability to operate from the Indian Navy’s STOBAR aircraft carriers. The AF / A-18 fighter took off using a ski jump platform built at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Md. In August 2020. The Navy may also test the Super Hornet at the facility. INS Hansa ski jumping event in March this year. the Hindustan times report said.

The F / A-18 Super Hornet Block III, according to Boeing, will give the Indian Navy a unique and differentiated capability in the form of an advanced, combat-proven multirole naval fighter fully compatible with Indian Navy aircraft carriers . The aircraft is in service with the US Navy.

Dissatisfied with the performance of its MiG-29Ks, the Indian Navy has expressed interest in purchasing new fighters for its aircraft carriers. With Vikrant’s enthronement this year (2022), the Indian Navy will have two aircraft carriers but will run out of fighters.

In 2017, the Navy announced that it would purchase 57 new fighters for its air force. However, the number has now been reduced to 36 because India is developing its own deck-based fighter jet – Twin-Engine Carrier-Based Deck Fighter or TEDBF – and due to financial constraints.

Experts say Dassault’s Rafale-M has an advantage over Boeing’s proposed F / A-18 Super Hornet, as the Indian Air Force has already inducted two fighter squadrons and may contract more over the years. coming years. India’s rapidly expanding defense partnership with France, which also has a significant presence in the Western Indian Ocean, will also be considered when New Delhi decides on the purchase of fighters.

The Navy has also aligned its requirements with those of the Indian Air Force, which could see both buying fighters from the same manufacturer to ensure, among other things, economies of scale.

If the Rafale-M is selected for supply, the Indian Navy could ask Dassault to hire four to five fighters to make the aircraft carrier Vikrant operational after it enters service with the Navy this year, the Hindustan times report said.

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