Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft has conducted a successful and safe launch from a ski-jump ramp demonstrating its ability to operate from ski-jump-equipped aircraft carriers.
The trials conducted at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland are being driven by an Indian Navy requirement for 57 carrier-based fighter jets. The service operates a single STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) carrier equipped with a ski-jump ramp and also has another STOBAR carrier under construction.
“The first successful and safe launch of the F/A-18 Super Hornet from a ski jump begins the validation process to operate effectively from Indian Navy aircraft carriers,” said Ankur Kanaglekar, India Fighter Sales lead for Boeing. “The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet will not only provide superior war fighting capability to the Indian Navy but also create opportunities for cooperation in naval aviation between the United States and India.”
— Boeing India (@Boeing_In) December 21, 2020
If Indian Navy selects the Super Hornet, it would benefit from billions of dollars invested in new technologies by the U.S. Navy and others. Those technologies include advanced networking, longer range through conformal fuel tanks (CFT), infrared search and track (IRST), and a new advanced cockpit system.
“This milestone further positions the Block III Super Hornet as a versatile next-generation frontline fighter for decades to come,” said Thom Breckenridge, vice president of International Sales for Strike, Surveillance and Mobility with Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “With its proven capabilities, affordable acquisition price, known low documented life-cycle costs and guaranteed delivery schedule, the Block III Super Hornet is ideally suited to meet fighter aircraft requirements of customers in India, North America and Europe.”
The ski jump demonstrations follow the delivery of two Block III flight-test aircraft to the U.S. Navy in June. Boeing is on contract to deliver next-generation Block III capabilities to the U.S. Navy beginning in 2021. The Super Hornet provides the most weapons at range in the U.S. Navy’s fighter inventory, including five times more air-to-ground and twice the air-to-air weapons capacity.
Indian Navy Carrier-Borne Fighter Jet Procurement
The Indian Navy is seeking to procure 57 new carrier-borne fighter jets under its Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighter (MRCBF) program to complement its fleet of Russian-made MiG-29K jets.
The new jets are to be deployed on the Navy’s sole operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, and INS Vikrant (also called Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1, or IAC-1) which is under construction at Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) in Kochi, Kerala. Both these vessels are STOBAR carriers equipped with a ski-jump ramp.
The main contenders for the MRCBF program are France’s Dassault Rafale M (variant of F3-R standard) and USA’s Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Block III variant). Since both these fighters are currently operated from aircraft carriers equipped with CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system – U.S. Navy and French Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers – they should prove their capability to operate from STOBAR carriers.
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a twin-engine, carrier-capable, multirole fighter aircraft developed by McDonnell Douglas (now produced by Boeing) based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet aircraft.
The U.S. Navy operates the Super Hornet from its Nimitz-class and the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers. The jets entered service with the Navy in 2001, replacing the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, and serving alongside the original Hornet.
The Super Hornet is also operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Kuwait Air Force has the aircraft on order. Australia is operating the Super Hornet as a land-based aircraft.
Boeing has offered to build the aircraft in India if selected for the competition.