With the Air Force already operating Rafale jets, there may be commonality for spare parts for Navy’s fighter program for INS Vikrant, says Chief of Naval Staff R Hari Kumar

Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M jets meet the requirements of the Navy and a selection between them will be the government’s decision, Navy chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar said on Friday, adding that the Rafale M has commonality with the Air Force in terms of spares and support.

“It will be a decision of the government... Both aircraft are ok. They have proved themselves. Now there will be other issues, like for example, we already have Rafales for the Air Force. There will be commonality of spare parts and support, etc. Each has got its own strengths and weaknesses,” Adm. Kumar said on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue. The dialogue, jointly organised by the Observer Research Foundation and the Ministry of External Affairs, concluded on Friday.

An indigenous Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF) is under development by the Aeronautical Development Agency under the DRDO to operate off the Navy’s aircraft carriers. The 26 jets planned to be procured from abroad will fill the gap in the interim as the existing MiG-29Ks may not last till then. Adm. Kumar said the Navy may get the TEDBF by 2034 or so.

Adm. Kumar was speaking at a session on the “future of warfare” that saw the participation of several chiefs of Navy from other countries. Maritime domain challenges were not just traditional and non-traditional, but also transnational, he stated. While all countries may not agree on some issues, most come together on others as part of issue-based convergence, he said.

Referring to regional groups in the Indo-Pacific, Adm. Kumar said, “When we work in small groups, it serves a lot of purposes, generates a lot of trust among partner countries, builds capacities, increases interoperability and better domain awareness.”

Also on the panel were Gen. Koji Yamazaki, Chief of Staff, Japan Ground Self-Defence Force; Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; Adm. Sir Ben Key, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff of the U.K. and Vice Adm. Angus Topshee, Commander of Royal Canadian Navy.

Adm. Aquilino said that the benefit of Artificial Intelligence in the short-term is decision-making in real-time. “However, it’s important not to lose sight that the military has a human dimension and interaction as the world moves towards AI and machine learning,” he cautioned.

On similar lines, Adm. Key said that AI could crunch data faster than a human. However, it wasn’t capable of human instinct, intuitiveness and understanding of risk, he noted.

Gen. Yamazaki noted that cyber space and outer space were two important domains of the future. “Japan is working towards building comprehensive defence capabilities to become secure and resilient in this regard,” he said.

Noting that fundamentally naval operations remained the same, Vice Adm. Topshee said that Canada was working with its allies on a range of issues. “The opportunity to interact with other Navies provides us access to various perspectives to formulate a comprehensive way forward,” he added.