Boeing to Conduct Ski-Jump Take-Off Trials of its F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet Fighter Aircraft

Boeing is planning to conduct ski-jump take-off trials of its F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft during the first quarter of 2020, FlightGlobal reported.

The trials are being driven by an Indian Navy requirement for 57 carrier-based fighters, the report cited Jeff Shockey, VP Global Sales and Marketing at Boeing Defense, Space & Security.

According to Shockey, the company is planning to conduct the trials in the first quarter of this year at the U.S. Navy’s Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS Pax River) in Maryland, USA.

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 (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) 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 they should prove their capability to operate from STOBAR carriers.

Dassault Rafale M

Rafale M is the naval version of the Dassault Rafale aircraft ordered by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The IAF formally received its first Rafale on Oct. 8 last year and the aircraft is expected to arrive in India later this year.

Rafale M is currently operated by the French Naval Aviation onboard French Navy’s sole aircraft carrier, FS Charles de Gaulle (R91). It is also the only non-U.S. fighter cleared to operate from the decks of U.S. Navy carriers.

Dassault Rafale M
A Dassault Rafale M lands abroad French Navy aircraft carrier, FS Charles de Gaulle (R91).

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.

F/A-18F Super Hornet
A Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet lands aboard U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). (USN photo by MCS2 Class Sean Elliott)

Indian Air Force MMRCA 2.0 Competition

In addition to the IN requirement for 57 fighters, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has a requirement of 110 multi-role combat aircraft. The new requirement came up following the cancellation of IAF’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition for acquiring 126 fighters and the procurement of 36 Dassault Rafale jets from France in a Government-to-government (G2G) deal.

All the aircraft that participated in the original MMRCA competition are competing in the new ‘MMRCA 2.0’ competition – Saab Gripen E/F (Sweden), Dassault Rafale (France), Eurofighter Typhoon (Europe), Mikoyan MiG-35 (Russia), Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (USA) and F-16 offering, dubbed F-21 for India-specific-variant, from Lockheed Martin (USA). Lockheed Martin’s MMRCA offering was designated F-16IN Block 70/72 Super Viper.

The additional contenders for the new competition will likely include Sukhoi Su-35 (Russia) and the Boeing F-15EX (USA). It was announced earlier this month that Boeing is seeking approval from the U.S. government to offer the latest F-15EX fighter aircraft for the competition.

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