Dassault Rafale-M Naval version of the fighter


The navy in December 2016 had ruled out deploying the indigenously built Tejas Navy on its aircraft carriers, saying it is “not being able to meet the requirements”. Citing “overweight” as one of the reasons for ruling out Tejas for India’s aircraft carriers, Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of Naval Staff, said the navy is looking at procuring an alternative aircraft. “As far as the carrier-based aircraft is concerned, we need it in a time line of the induction of the aircraft carrier. We have the MiG-29K, which operates from Vikramaditya and will operate from (indigenous aircraft carrier) IAC Vikrant." he said.

"The navy was hoping to operate the LCA (Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas) from these two aircraft carriers. Unfortunately, the LCA is not being able to meet the carrier’s required capability. That is why we need an alternative aircraft to operate from these two aircraft carriers,” Lanba further added.

He said that at the moment the navy is in the process of identifying the aircraft that will meet its requirements.

“If you look around the world, there are not too many options available and we need this carrier capable aircraft sooner than later. So, I am looking at next five-six years,” he said.

However, as per some defence experts the real reason for the rejection of the Tejas by the navy was the navy was disappointed of the poor serviceability of its Russian made MiG-29K fighters as it was believed that parts and components were falling off like ninepins from the MiGs on the deck of INS Vikramaditya. Hence, the CNS in an obvious knee-jerk reaction rejected the Tejas and opted to source the fighters from abroad to fill in the operational gap since the indigenous fighter's final operational clearance would be delayed by more than a decade. 

F/A-18 "Super Hornet"

Built for Air Superiority

The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet is the newest highly capable, affordable and available tactical aircraft in U.S. Navy inventory. The Super Hornet is the backbone of the U.S. Navy carrier air wing now and for decades to come.

The combat-proven Super Hornet delivers cutting-edge, next-generation multi-role strike fighter capability, outdistancing current and emerging threats well into the future. The Super Hornet has the capability, flexibility and performance necessary to modernize the air or naval aviation forces of any country. Two versions of the Super Hornet – the single-seat E model and the two-seat F model – are able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions.

Super Hornet Quick Facts

  • The Advanced Cockpit System includes a new 10 x 19 inch touchscreen display provides the pilot with the capability to see, track and target multiple long range targets generated by the common tactical picture.
  • Longer range with low-drag, stealthy conformal fuel tanks. The shoulder-mounted tanks can carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag, allowing the aircraft to operate longer, go faster and/or carry more weight.
  • An enclosed weapons pod would make the plane more aerodynamic while also cutting down on the plane's radar cross section. Combined with the form-fitting fuel tanks, the Advanced Super Hornet could cut it's radar signature by up to 50%.
  • Enhanced network capability with a system that improves computing power (DTP-N), network throughput (TTNT) and sensor/platform integration, allowing large amounts of data on and off the airplane. It also has the increased ability to receive targeting information from other platforms.
  • Long-range detection with Infrared Search and Track (IRST) that can detect threats without having to depend on radar, generating a multi-ship, common tactical picture at long range, allowing the Super Hornet to operate as a smart sensor node on the network.
  • Improved avionics and computing power as well as increased ability to network to receive targeting data from platforms like the F-35 or E-2 Hawkeye. The Advanced Super Hornet would also feature an improved active electronically scanned array radar.
  • An improved engine could increase fuel efficiency and performance. Boeing hasn't yet begun earnestly working towards this, and it could add to the overall cost of the project significantly.

Dassault Rafale-M

The Rafale-M (or Rafale Marine), with its “Omnirole” capabilities, is the right answer to the capability approach selected by an increasing number of governments. It fully complies with the requirement to carry out the widest range of roles with the smallest number of aircraft. For carrier operations, the M model has a strengthened airframe, longer nose gear leg to provide a more nose-up attitude, larger tail-hook between the engines, and a built-in boarding ladder.

The Rafale has exhibited a remarkable survivability rate during the latest French Navy operations, thanks to an optimized airframe and to a wide range of smart and discrete sensors. It is slated to be the French armed forces prime combat aircraft until 2050 at least.

The Navy's single-seat Rafale M feature maximum airframe and equipment commonality, and very similar mission capabilities with other variants of the fighter.

Dassault Rafale-M Quick Facts

  • Air-defense / air-superiority
  • Anti-Access/Aera Denial
  • Reconnaissance
  • Close air support
  • Dynamic Targeting
  • Air-to-ground precision strike / interdiction
  • Anti-ship attacks
  • Nuclear deterrence
  • Buddy-buddy refuelling

Having laid out the salient features of both the fighters, it is time for us to wait with baited-breath for the choice for the apt fighter for the navy's carrier operations.

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