Boeing Makes Strong Pitch for F/A -18 Block III Super Hornet for Indian Navy

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New Delhi: Having carried out an F/A-18E/F Super Hornet off a ground-based ski jump at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland as part of a demonstration effort for the Indian Navy in August, US Defense and aerospace major Boeing made a strong pitch for the aircraft on December 21.

The demonstration at Patuxent river was to show that the aircraft can operate from short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) configured aircraft carriers, such as the INS Vikramaditya and the future INS Vikrant.

Talking to the media at a virtual conference, Ankur Kanaglekar, Head, India Fighters Sale, Boeing Defense, Space and Security said “the induction of this aircraft would be a force multiplier for the Indian Navy,” and it would have immense value considering that India would be having two aircraft carriers.

He said there are two variants of the Super Hornet. One is the two-seater which can also operate as a capable trainer aircraft and the other is the single seater.

Indian Nayy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh has also been vigorously pitching for a third aircraft carrier so the procurement of these aircraft would boost the air power of the Navy.

Considering the prevailing situation on the borders with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh and the tension along the Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan and the moves by China to increase its naval power, there is indeed an imperative need for boosting the maritime strength.

The successful demonstration of Boeing’s ability of its F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets to land on Indian naval aircraft carrier is the culmination of two years of study and simulations in close interaction with the Indian Navy.

“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 Kanaglekar.

The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet would not only provide superior war-fighting capability to the Indian Navy but also create opportunities for cooperation in naval aviation between the US and India, he said, pitching it as a “lynchpin” for cooperation between Indian and US navies.

Kanaglekar also highlighted the ability of F/A-18 to interface with the Navy’s P-8I as a “force multiplier” and also with other platforms under induction.

The Navy has also contracted 24 Lockheed MH-60R multi-role helicopters with deliveries to begin next year.

As part of Boeing’s proposed “By India, for India” sustainment program, the Block III Super Hornets could be serviced in partnership with the Indian Navy as well as India and US based partners throughout the lifecycle of the aircraft, Kanaglekar said. This would further develop advanced expertise in aircraft maintenance in India, resulting in higher availability of the aircraft, at competitive pricing and reduced risk for the Indian Navy.

The Indian Navy is currently evaluating responses from aircraft manufacturers received in response to a Request For Information (RFI) floated in 2017 for 57 twin-engine deck-based fighters. However, with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) recently offering to develop a twin-engine deck based jet, the Navy is in the process of cutting down the number of fighters from 57 to around 36.

The Navy’s sole aircraft carrier in service INS Vikramaditya and the under-construction Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)-I Vikrant both have a ski-jump with a STOBAR mechanism.

Boeing and the US Navy proved recently that the F/A-18 Super Hornet can operate from a “ski jump” ramp, demonstrating the aircraft’s suitability for India’s aircraft carriers.

The F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet will offer the Indian Navy value in the form of advanced warfighter technologies at a low acquisition cost and affordable cost per flight hour because of its ease of maintainability design and durability.

The Indian Navy stands to benefit from the multi-billion dollar investments made towards new technologies in the Super Hornet by the US Navy and several international customers. This includes advanced network technology, longer range and low-drag with conformal fuel tanks, long-range detection with Infrared Search & Track, enhanced situational awareness with a new Advanced Cockpit System, improved signature reduction and a 10,000+ hour life.

Boeing is on schedule to deliver next-generation Block III capabilities to the US Navy in 2021 and by 2024, one squadron per carrier air wing will consist of Block III Super Hornets. Making the platform the US Navy’s dominant force in the skies, the Super Hornet provides the most weapons at range in the US Navy’s fighter inventory, including five times more air-to-ground and twice the air-to-air weapons capacity.

Boeing’s advanced aircraft and services focus play an important role in mission-readiness for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.

The company has strengthened its supply chain with 225 partners in India and a joint venture to manufacture fuselages for Apache helicopters. Annual sourcing from India stands at $1 billion. Boeing currently employs 3,000 people in India, and more than 7,000 people work with its supply chain partners. Boeing’s employee efforts and India countrywide engagement serves communities and citizenship programs to inspire change and make an impact on more than 200,000 lives.

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