Navy to test Rafale-M jet for INS Vikrant

With countdown already begun to commission indigenous aircraft carrier 1 as INS Vikrant in August 2022, the Indian Navy will conduct flight trials of Rafale-Maritime fighter at Shore Based Test Facility at INS Hansa in Goa on January 6 onwards as part of its exercise to identify the best warplane to suit the 40,000 tonne carrier. The IAC 1 is based at Cochin shipyard and is currently undergoing intensive sea trials in Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.

With countdown already begun to commission indigenous aircraft carrier 1 as INS Vikrant in August 2022, the Indian Navy will conduct flight trials of Rafale-Maritime fighter at Shore Based Test Facility at INS Hansa in Goa on January 6 onwards as part of its exercise to identify the best warplane to suit the 40,000-tonne carrier. The IAC 1 is based at Cochin shipyard and is currently undergoing intensive sea trials in the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.

According to officials in the knowledge of the matter, the Rafale-M fighter will be pushed through an intensive trial at the 283-meter mock-up ski jump facility at INS Hansa for nearly 12 days to assess whether the fighter aircraft is best suited for IAC-1. The Rafale M fighter is the principal weapon system for the French Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier and has also shown its inter-operability with US aircraft carriers way back in 2008.

The Indian Navy is also planning to test US F-18 Hornet fighter at the same facility apparently in March as the alternative option to Rafale-M fighter. The Boeing F-18 is a proven carrier-based multi-role fighter for the US Navy and has performed strike operations from way back to the 1991 Gulf War.

While the Indian Navy operates two squadrons of MiG-29K onboard its sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, the Russian aircraft is facing issues of maintenance and spare parts availability.

The DRDO’s LCA-M is still in the development stage with two single-engine demonstrator fighters being flight tested from INS Vikramaditya and the Goa-based shore-based test facility for providing inputs to the final twin-engine deck based carrier fighter in future. According to Aeronautical Development Agency, the first flight trial of the indigenous twin-engine fighter is expected before 2026 and induction into the Indian Navy before 2031.

While the decision on which fighter will spearhead IAC-1 will be based on the flight trials, fact is that Rafale-M is lighter and smaller in the airframe to F-18 and packs a bigger punch than its American counterpart in terms of long-range air to air missiles and air to land missiles. Naval Aviation experts also say that it will require structural modifications to the IAC 1 to fit F-18 into the lift to cart the fighter from the hanger to the flight deck above due to its comparatively larger airframe.

As the IAC -1 is expected to be commissioned as INS Vikrant on August 15, 2022, the 75th year of Indian independence, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, there is a strong possibility that the Indian Navy may ask the French manufacturers of the aircraft to lease four to five Rafale -M in 2022 so that the aircraft carrier is made operational. India already has a maintenance cum flight training facility of Rafale at Ambala air base. The Naval aviators will be trained at INS Hansa.

Source: Hindustan Times

Author

  • A Forensic Medicine and Toxicology expert from AIIMS Bhubhaneswar. He takes keen interest in ballistics, CBRN warfare and related subjects. He has been associated with the IADN since very initial time.

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