Boeing has announced plans to test its F/A-18 Super Hornet jet on a carrier ski-jump to make a pitch for India’s carrier-based aircraft procurement program even as Russia’s MiG is expecting an order to supply the MiG-29K jets for the same.
India’s Russian origin aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya and India's first Indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) use the ski-jump system while US carriers use the catapult-launch system. India has also been planning to build 65,000-tonne IAC-2, INS Vishal. Last year, BAE Systems offered to build a customized HMS Queen Elizabeth-type aircraft carrier for India, with an adaptable design for ski-jump and catapult launch.
The Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet will need to be tested and certified for ski-jump operation before it can make a pitch for the Indian procurement.
“Testing plans are underway,” Thom Breckenridge, a Boeing vice president for international sales, said at the Defexpo2020 Indian arms show. “We will rigorously check our aircraft on the ski jump.”
"Russia is waiting for a request from the Indian Defense Ministry for the delivery of deck-based MiG-29K fighters for the Vikrant,” a Russian aviation industry told Tass today in response to Indian media reports that the wait for the country’s first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant has been extended due to issues with the delivery of aviation equipment from Russia.
The Indian side has not yet issued a tender for the supply of deck-based aircraft, although the Indian side made the relevant inquiry back in 2017. On Russia’s behalf, the state arms seller Rosoboronexport will take part in the tender, the source told Tass.
According to India’s plans, the light aircraft carrier Vikrant is due to be delivered to the Indian Navy in March 2021. The warship is expected to carry up to 14 MiG-29K fighters and several helicopters.
India’s current fleet of 45 MiG-29K aircraft, procured for $2.2 billion, currently operate from Navy’s sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, and plans to buy 57 more. The flight deck of INS Vikrant will reportedly have the capacity to hold 19 aircraft and the hangar inside will have room for 17 fighters.
New Delhi issued a request for information (RFI) for a “day-and-night-capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air-defense, air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance, etc. from (the Navy's) aircraft carriers.” The country has, however, not yet issued even a call to bid in a tender for the supply of deck-based aircraft.
In future, these aicrafft will fly from the first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) Vikrant once it enters service.