Rafale-M will demonstrate compatibility with Vikrant’s shore installation



Like the native 40,000-ton aircraft carrier Vikrant left the port of Kochi on Sunday for the third phase of sea trials, from Monday French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation will fly its Rafale-M fighter jet from the Indian Navy’s land test facility (SBTF) in Goa to demonstrate compatibility and suitability to operate from the carrier’s deck.

The Rafale-M arrived in Goa last Thursday and the protest from Monday is expected to continue until February 1, two defense officials independently said. Boeing will also demonstrate the compatibility of its F / A-18 Super Hornet on the SBTF probably in March, we learned.

The tests are part of aircraft manufacturers’ demonstrations to show the compatibility of their planes with Indian Navy aircraft carriers that use a springboard to launch planes, an official said.

The Rafale-M and the F / A-18 were both originally designed to operate from aircraft carriers with a catapult launch mechanism. The carrier would therefore need minor modifications to make the plane work, officials said.

A government-to-government agreement could be signed based on the aircraft selected to speed up the process, one of the officials observed.

Boeing has taken the lead in the race after already demonstrating the F / A-18’s ability to take off from a similar facility ashore at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, United States, in December 2020.

However, each fighter brings certain advantages while having some limitations. For example, if the Rafale-M does not have a two-seater, its acquisition would mean a similarity with the Indian Air Force which will soon complete embarkation of the 36 Rafale under contract in 2016. On the other hand, the F / A-18 is a more widely used platform with a two-seater trainer and also has an electronic warfare version that could be of interest to the Navy. There is also the issue of the size of the aircraft and their fit on the aircraft carrier and its elevators, which would also be considered in the final assessment.

Urgent need

In 2017, the Navy launched a request for information (RFI) to procure 57 twin-engine aircraft carrier fighters, which should now be reduced to around 26, including a few two-seater training variants. The overhaul comes against the backdrop of a new indigenous twin-engine aircraft carrier (TEBDF) based bridge fighter designed and developed by the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

However, supply has now become urgent as the Navy runs out of planes to operate from the two carriers. the Vikrant is scheduled to enter service in August, coinciding with 75 years of independence, while aeronautical testing and operationalization will take place in 2023.

INS Vikramaditya, the only carrier currently in service, operates the Mi9-29K aircraft. While 45 planes were originally under contract with Russia, their availability has been a major issue and will not meet the needs of both carriers, Navy officials said.

According to ADA, the first flight of the underdevelopment, the TEBDF is scheduled for 2026. It is envisioned as a mid-weight twin-engine fighter, with a total weight of 26 tons and folding wings and is intended to replace the Mig-29Ks in service, as reported by The hindu earlier.

Phase 3 sea trials

the Vikrant had sailed for the first runways in August 2021 and phase 2 trials in October of the same year. According to the Navy, in the current phase of sea trials, the aircraft carrier “will undertake complex maneuvers to establish specific readings of how the ship behaves under various conditions.”

Scientists from the Naval Science and Technological Laboratory, a DRDO lab based in Visakhapatnam, would also be on board during the tests, the Navy said. In addition, various sensor suites on the ship would also be tested.


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