New Delhi: The F/A-18 Super Hornet’s successful completion of its trials in Goa earlier this year “reinforced” its ability to effectively and safely operate off Indian Navy carriers,” the fighter aircraft’s maker, American aviation giant Boeing, said Wednesday.

The American firm, which is in competition with French aviation major Dassault Aviation for a mega Indian Navy contract for new fighters, said two U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets had completed multiple ski-jumps, roll-in and fly-in arrestment (when an aircraft lands on a carrier and decelerates rapidly using arresting gear).

They also did performance flights, in a variety of weights in the air-to-air, air-to-ground, and air-to-surface configurations, “meeting the Indian Navy test requirements”.

The company asserted that the F/A-18 Super Hornet was designed and built for carrier operations, and is “fully compliant” with the aircraft carriers INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant.

The F/A-18 will be able to operate on the deck, in the hangar and on the lifts of the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers, the company said in a statement.

It was reported that the Indian Navy would enter into a government-to-government contract with either the US or France for the purchase of more than two dozen fighter aircraft.

Sources in the defence and security establishment had also said that a trial report on operational demonstrations by the two aircraft — Boeing’s F/A-18E and Dassault’s Rafale-M — should be completed within two months, and further clarifications could be sought from the two companies in contention.

Following this, the Navy hopes to move the procurement proposal to the defence ministry by the end of 2022.

Next-Generation Upgrade

“The Boeing team was privileged to showcase the F/A-18 Super Hornet’s compatibility with Indian carriers in Goa,” said Alain Garcia, vice president, India business development, Boeing Defence, Space & Security and Global Services.

He added that the F/A-18 Super Hornet is one of the world’s most proven and affordable multi-role fighters, and continues to evolve with the development of the next-generation Block-III capability, which will be game-changing for India.

“With the Super Hornet Block-III, the Indian Navy would not only get the most advanced platform but would also benefit from tactics, upgrades, and knowledge related to the naval aviation ecosystem that the U.S. Navy offers,” he added.

The tests in Goa followed eight ski-jumps in various weights and configurations during previous tests held at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland in late 2020, which demonstrated the Super Hornet’s ability to operate from a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) aircraft carrier.

As the U.S. Navy’s frontline fighter, with more than 800 aircraft delivered around the world and over 2.5 million flight hours flown, the Super Hornet Block-III offers opportunities for cooperation and interoperability between the United States and India navies, Boeing added.

It further said that Boeing and the US Navy had made multi-billion-dollar investments in infusing new technologies into the Super Hornet Block-III, including increasing the life of the airframe to 10,000 hours from Block-II’s 6,000 hours of Block-II, as well radar cross-section improvements and an advanced crew station that includes a large area display.

As its competitor, the twin-seater version of the Rafale-M, cannot operate from an Indian aircraft carrier, Boeing played on this in its statement.

It said that the twin-seater carrier compatible variant of the Super Hornet offers several unique advantages to the Indian Navy, including flexibility, higher utilisation of the fleet, and the ability to embark on certain missions from the carrier that benefit from having a second crew member.

Additionally, two-seater F/A-18 Super Hornets can be used both as trainers (ashore and on the carrier) and as fully capable fighters, operational from the carrier and from land bases.