The Rafale would have lost ground against the Super Hornet in the competition of the Indian Navy

Technical hurdles would hamper Dassault Rafale’s position to win the contract to supply the Indian Navy with new airborne fighters, in which it competes with the Boeing Super Hornet.

The Indian Navy is seeking to acquire 26 carrier-based multi-role fighters under the MRCBF program to form the carrier-based fighter wing of the new locally designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

The French Dassault Rafale and the American Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet compete in this program. The Navy already has more than 40 Russian MiG-29K/KUBs, but their chronic unreliability has led to a search for a Western option.

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The Rafale and the Super Hornet were tested at the Hansa base, where the Indian Navy has a ski jump track to simulate the take-off conditions of the aircraft carriers it operates.

INS Hanse
The INS Hansa base and its ski jump.

And if the Rafale has the significant advantage of being already operated by the Indian Air Force, according to the Indian Defense Research Wing (IDRW) site, there are technical aspects that would make it difficult to implement at INS Vikrant. , and would favor the USA. option.

First, the Rafale’s inability to fold its wings not only makes it take up more space on the deck and in the hangar than a Super Hornet, but would also force the removal of the wingtip missile rails to adapt to the elevators of the INS Vikrant, which are narrower than those of the French or American aircraft carriers. Quite a downside.

Boeing Super Hornet during ski jump takeoff tests.

On the other hand, given its production limited to less than 50 copies (the only operator is the National Navy), the price of the Rafale M is higher than that of the conventional take-off versions operated by the French Air Force, India Air Force, and several export customers. Additionally, there are approximately 1400 Super Hornet airframes produced, which would reduce some operating costs, due to economies of scale.

Another aspect that would favor the choice of the Super Hornet is the engine. The US naval fighter uses two General Electric F414 engines, which is the same powerplant chosen by India to power its own carrier-based fighter design, the Navy’s Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) (which , coincidentally, strongly resembles the Rafale design) and which will also be the engine of the Tejas MkII of the Air Force. The F414 is expected to be manufactured in India under license from General Electric.

TEDBF, the Indian project to develop its own naval combat aircraft.

See also: SAFRAN participates in the development of the engine for the AMCA, India’s future 5th generation fighter

But it is also true that SAFRAN, the manufacturer of the M-88 engine that powers the Rafale, has been selected by India to provide technical assistance in the development of the propulsion system of the AMCA, the future fifth-generation fighter locally developed. The French presence in the Indian defense industry will thus be guaranteed for many years.

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