Boeing wants to certify Super Hornet for ski-jump operations

Boeing Super Hornet launches from US Aircraft Carrier.

The Boeing wants to test and certify F/A-18 Super Hornet for ski-jump operations during the first quarter of 2020 before it can make a pitch for the Indian Navy.

The Indian Navy has elected to proceed with an ambitious all-new twin-engined carrier-based fighter, abandoning its proposed Hindustan Aeronautics LCA MkII naval variant.

Boeing has announced plans to test its F/A-18 Super Hornet jet on a carrier ski-jump to make a pitch for India’s carrier-based aircraft procurement program to compete with the Russia’s MiG-29K for the same.

Jeff Shockey, vice-president global sales and marketing at Boeing Defense, Space & Security, says the trials are being driven by an Indian navy fighter requirement.

India’s only carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, is equipped with a ski-jump ramp to launch aircraft, as is a second carrier – the INS Vikrant – that has yet to enter service.

Model of INS Vikrant Aircraft Carrier

In US Navy service the Super Hornet is launched by catapults, a capability that could feature on a proposed third Indian aircraft carrier.

“The [ski-jump] testing is going to take place sometime in the first quarter at [NAS] Patuxent River,” says Shockey.

India’s Russian origin aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya and India’s first Indigenous aircraft carrier (IAC-1) use the ski-jump system while US carriers use the catapult-launch system. India has also been planning to build 65,000-tonne IAC-2, INS Vishal. Last year, BAE Systems offered to build a customized HMS Queen Elizabeth-type aircraft carrier for India, with an adaptable design for ski-jump and catapult launch.

“Testing plans are underway,” Thom Breckenridge, a Boeing vice president for international sales, said at the Defexpo2020 Indian arms show. “We will rigorously check our aircraft on the ski jump.”

Indian media reports that the Cochin Shipyard is waiting the delivery of aviation equipment from Russia before India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant can be put to sea trials.

According to India’s plans, the light aircraft carrier Vikrant is due to be delivered to the Indian Navy in March 2021. The warship is expected to carry a number of fighters and several helicopters.

Is Boeing Elbowing MiG Out of India Carrier Jet Race?
MiG-29K operating on India’s INS Vikramaditya

India’s current fleet of 45 MiG-29K aircraft, procured for $2.2 billion, currently operate from Navy’s sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, and plans to buy 57 more. The flight deck of INS Vikrant will reportedly have the capacity to hold 19 aircraft and the hangar inside will have room for 17 fighters. Currently, more than half the MiG-29K is out of commission due to lack of spares and unreliable engines of MiG-29K.

India’s ministry of defense issued a request for information (RFI) for a “day-and-night-capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air-defense, air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance, AESA radar, EW, for Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers.” The  country has, however, not yet issued even a call to request for proposal (RFP) in a tender for the supply of deck-based aircraft.

Indian Navy has a requirement for 57 carrier-borne fighters – a contest which will pit the Super Hornet against the Dassault Rafale M.

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