New Delhi: The Rafale maritime fighter aircraft on Monday demonstrated its operational capability at a naval facility in Goa as the Navy plans to acquire a fleet of combat jets for its indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC) Vikrant, people familiar with the development said.

The demonstration by the naval variant of the Rafale jet took place at the shore-based test facility (SBTF) at INS Hansa, the naval air station in Goa, they said.

The Indian Navy is planning to procure a batch of fighter jets for IAC Vikrant that is likely to be commissioned in August.

IAC Vikrant is currently undergoing critical sea trials.

Over four years back, the Indian Navy had initiated the process to acquire 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its aircraft carrier.

File image of  indigenous TEJAS Navy fighter undergoing tests at the SBTF at INS Hansa
Four planes were in contention for the deal which included Rafale (Dassault, France), F-18 Super Hornet (Boeing, US), MiG-29K (Russia) and Gripen (SAAB, Sweden).

In March, F-18 Super Hornet is likely to demonstrate its operational capabilities.

At present, the Indian Navy operates Russian-origin MiG-29K fighters from its sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.

The Request For Information issued by the Navy for procurement of the deck-based fighter jets sought to know at what level of Transfer of Technology (ToT) the companies are willing to share with India.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 59,000 crore for the Indian Air Force.

The first batch of five Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, arrived in India on July 29, 2020.

Already 33 Rafale jets have been delivered to the IAF by the plane’s maker Dassault Aviation.

French defence minister Florence Parly, during a visit to India last month, indicated that France will be interested to supply the carrier-based jets.

“We know that the aircraft carrier will soon be…that aircraft are needed. We are open and ready to provide any other Rafale if this is India’s decision,” she said.