DRDO – Defence Research and Development Organisation’s new twin-engine aircraft carrier-based fighter aircraft could replace Indian Navy’s MiG-29K. The DRDO is expected to compete against US defence giant – Boeing and French conglomerate – Rafale.
“The Navy is expected to get the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL)-built twin-engine carrier aircraft by 2032. It will replace the MiG-29Ks in service which are scheduled to start going out by 2034,” said a defence source to The Hindu.
The Indian Navy currently operates just one aircraft carrier – a former Soviet vessel – Admiral Gorshkov rechristened in India as INS Vikramaditya which embarks the Russian MiG-29K fighters.
India is expected to receive a second aircraft carrier by 2022. The first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-I) Vikrant is in the advanced stages of construction with all four Gas Turbines, main engines having been started, Power Generation Systems comprising of eight Diesel Alternators ready and trials of ship’s major systems and auxiliary equipment in progress.
The deadline to deliver the ship was in 2018 but it is delayed to 2022. Minister of State for Defence Sripad Naik said that “Ship’s targeted delivery was affected due to delay in supply of aviation equipment from Russia”.
DRDO’s offered to develop this twin-engine deck-based fighter jet for the Indian Navy and the design specifications for it have been finalised. Officials had stated that there will not be enough aircraft to operate from both carriers i.e. INS Vikramaditya and Vikrant.
The Indian Navy currently possesses 45 Russian MiG-29K aircraft and is evaluating a response the Request For Information (RFI) from Boeing with its F-18 Super Hornet and Dassault Aviation with its Rafale jets. Both companies had assured that their jets can operate off the ski-jump of Vikramaditya and in future the Vikrant.
As reported earlier by EurAsian Times, the baseline Super Hornets have a top speed of 1190 miles per hour, armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles with an unrefueled range of 1243 miles. A twin-engine, multirole, carrier-capable aircraft, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet is the variant of the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet.
The French Navy had earlier pointed out that Rafale jets will be suitable for the Indian Navy and can be easily integrated onboard the aircraft carrier under construction at Cochin Shipyard.
“We have used the aircraft carrier in the fight against ISIS and have used sophisticated armaments from the Rafale that demonstrates that it works very well,” said Rear Admiral Gilles Boidevezi, in charge of foreign relations for the French Navy.
“The Rafale went to the US and was deployed on American aircraft carriers,” said Boidevezi. “The Rafale was perfectly integrated with the US carriers and has shown its capability to work with non-French platforms.”
Both the F-18 and Rafale Marine fighter jets have been operating from aircraft carriers but are designed for catapult launches. However, the Indian navy uses the ski jump system, which involves a runway that curves upward. Sources have revealed that the French team have carried out extensive tests and software analysis on the Rafale to show that it can operate with a meaningful load from ski-jump carriers too.
Should India go indigenous and give the contract to DRDO or continue to export high-end jets from the West?