American F-18 Super Hornets will be pitted against Russian-origin MiG-29K fighter jets of the Indian Navy at the Malabar Naval Drill which will include the US, Australia, Japan, and India. The war drills, termed by Beijing as an anti-China grouping will be held from November 17 to 20.
Reportedly, the US’ supercarrier Nimitz will have F-18 Super Hornets on board and the Indian INS Vikramaditya will boast the Russian origin MiG-29K fighters along with two destroyers of the Australian and Japanese navies as part of the Malabar Naval Exercise 2020.
The first phase of the joint military exercise in the Bay of Bengal ended on Friday. “The exercise, being conducted as a ‘non-contact, at sea only’ exercise in view of COVID-19 pandemic, will showcase the high-levels of synergy and coordination between the friendly navies, which is based on their shared values and commitment to an open, inclusive Indo-Pacific and a rules-based international order,” the Indian Navy said in a statement.
— U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (@INDOPACOM) November 7, 2020
The exercise is conducted in the backdrop of rising tensions with China. All the four Quad countries are facing hostilities from China and have hastened the cooperation after officials from the member countries met in Tokyo on October 6.
#Malabar_20 Phase I
High tempo of ops involving @indiannavy platforms & @jmsdf_pao_eng @Australian_Navy @USNavy ships. Wpn firings, cross deck ops, anti-air, anti-sub & surface warfare drills culminating with advanced #WaratSea #Exercise.#Interoperabilityhttps://t.co/8fULxrSYTC pic.twitter.com/jqgjzgXm1x
— SpokespersonNavy (@indiannavy) November 7, 2020
As part of the second phase of the exercise, the four countries will participate in war games in order to understand the level of training of each others’ navies during this exercise. The exercise will take place off the coast of Goa.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s warships are conducting anti-pirate operations off the Gulf of Aden, which isn’t very far from the patrolling ships between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea guarding the Malabar exercise, said a report in HT.
US’ Nimitz, one of the largest warships in the world, will be seen with the F-18 Superhornet on board. 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.
A single-seat fighter jet, Super Hornet can carry air-to-air missiles and also air-to-surface weapons. It has an internal 20mm M61 rotary cannon that helps it to carry the missiles. The jets are armed with live AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, ATFLIR targeting pods, and GBU-38/B JDAMs and GBU-54/B Laser JDAMs.
During the recently held US-India 2+2 strategic dialogue aimed to enhance economic and military cooperation between the two countries, ANI reported that the US government has offered to sell their F-18 fighters along with the unmanned aircraft Sea Guardian to the Indian Navy along with other systems to the Indian armed forces.
Earlier, the manufacturer of F-18, Boeing confirmed that it has been testing the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter jets for the Indian Navy’s requirements of a carrier-based fighter.
The trials were a part of demonstrations for the Indian Navy to exhibit that the aircraft is fully capable of operating from the ski-jumps of the Indian aircraft carriers, namely the INS Vikramaditya and the in-development INS Vikrant.
On the other hand, the Indian carrier, INS Vikramaditya, will have the Mikoyan MiG-29K that will face the American F-18 in the war games. The Indian Navy has a fleet of over 40 MiG-29K fighter jets that are deployed on INS Vikramaditya.
The 4+ generation MiG-29K possesses a multi-function radar and hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controls. Along with air to air missiles, owing to the integration of RVV-AE, it also carries anti-ship and anti-radar operations and several surface precision-guided weapons.
Experts argue that in a dogfight, the MiG-29’s speed and the power of the AA-11 archer will give it an advantage, while Hornets offer better situational awareness for the pilot.
At a time when the US and India are boosting their maritime and defense ties, New Delhi is looking into options to expand its fleet of fighter jets for the Navy. The US government and Boeing are going all out to clinching the $7-8 billion Indian Navy contract for 57 aircraft carrier-borne fighters.
The Malabar exercise will provide a platform for the Indian Navy to observe how the Russian beasts can take on the American Hornets in war drills.