India finishes carrier-testing F/A-18 as Super Hornet squares off against Rafale

India has finished testing the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet in preparation for selecting its next carrier-based fighter jet. 

The aircraft was tested at Naval Station Hansa in Goa, India, and completed ski-jumps, landings and flights with various weapon arrangements. 

According to a Boeing press release, the jet demonstrated its compatibility with Indian Navy requirements. 

“With the Super Hornet Block III, the Indian Navy would not only get the most advanced platform but would also benefit from tactics, upgrades and knowledge related to the naval aviation ecosystem that the US Navy offers,” vice president of India business development for Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Boeing Global Services, Alain Garcia, said. 

In early 2022, India also started evaluating the Dassault Rafale M, F/A-18’s main competitor to become the country’s new carrier-borne fighter jet. 

The US Navy is the only one to operate the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet from the carrier, while the French Navy operates Rafale M from theirs. 

However, unlike both France’s Charles de Gaulle and the supercarriers of the US, India’s Vikrant and Vikramaditya lack a catapult launch system (CATOBAR) and launch their aircraft with the help of a ski-jump. This could pose a challenge for both the Super Hornet and the Rafale, necessitating different procedures and operational envelopes. 

Currently, the Indian Navy operates a fleet of Soviet-era MiG-29K and MiG-29KUB jets. In 2017 it announced a plan to replace them with 57 new aircraft, launching a competition that was entered by Boeing and Dassault. 

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