Boeing is making India an offer it can’t refuse.
A battle tested F/A-18E/F Super Hornet that can operate from short take-off but arrested recovery configured (STOBAR) aircraft carriers, such as the INS Vikramaditya and the future INS Vikrant.
How high can it jump? Just watch, says Boeing.
Flying off a ground-based ski jump at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, it is part of a demonstration effort for the Indian Navy, Joseph Trevithick of The War Zone reported.
The naval air station has a ground-based ski jump that it used during testing of the short and vertical takeoff and landing capable F-35B variant of the Joint Strike Fighter, The War Zone reported.
“Boeing and the US Navy are in the beginning phases of operating an F/A-18 Super Hornet from a ski jump at Naval Air Station Patuxent River to demonstrate it is STOBAR compliant for the Indian Navy,” Justin Gibson, a Boeing spokesperson said.
“Boeing completed extensive analysis and more than 150 flight simulations on F/A-18 compatibility with Indian aircraft carriers, and while our assessment has shown the Block III Super Hornet is very capable of launching off a ski jump, this is the next step in demonstrating that capability.”
India is in the midst of an unprecedented arms buildup, as it clashes with China over its Himalayan border in the Ladakh region. However, the military procurement process in India is fraught with bureaucratic red tape, making it almost impossible to get anything done.
McDonnell Douglas, which developed the original F/A-18 Hornet and was subsequently acquired by Boeing, had also previously conducted ski jump tests with that aircraft at the tail end of the Cold War, The War Zone reported.
Testing showed that with as little as a nine-degree incline, the total required takeoff roll for the Hornet could be cut in half, though it’s unclear what the jet’s gross weight had to be to achieve this performance.
Ski jumps generally increase the takeoff performance of combat jets in the absence of catapults.
Since at least 2016, the Indian Navy has been working to acquire a fleet of at least 57 new fighter jets to complement its existing MiG-29K Fulcrums under the Multi-Role Carrier-Borne Fighter (MRCBF) program.
There have been numerous reports that the Indians have been disappointed in the performance of their navalized Russian Fulcrums, The War Zone reported.
The Super Hornet is now competing against the MiG-29K, as well as the naval version of the French-made Dassault Rafale and a variant of the Swedish Gripen. The Indian Air Force notably took delivery of the first of its land-based Rafale variants last month amid much media attention.
Being able to operate from a STOBAR carrier is a key requirement for the Indian Navy, which presently only has the one carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, which is in the configuration. A second STOBAR-configured flattop, the future INS Vikrant, and indigenous design, is also under construction.
Boeing in fact is looking for a partnership with Indian manufacturers Mahindra and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to present a proposal under the Make in India initiative, The National Interest reported.
“HAL has built airplanes for years and Mahindra too has manufacturing knowhow,” said Dan Gillian, Boeing’s program manager for the F/A-18.
“A public-private partnership will bring it together and we will build a brand new first class facility in India. It will help India build its next plan for the advanced multirole combat aircraft as well.
“We are talking about creating a next-generation facility in India. We think the Super Hornet is the most advanced airplane that India could manufacture,” Gillian explained.