Is the Indian Navy edging closer to a Rafale Marine order?

U.S. Navy photo

India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) could soon approve an order for 26 Dassault Rafale Marine fighters, a local news outlet reported. 

Sources told the New Indian Express that the CCS, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, would approve the order during its session on March 22, 2023.  

The Indian Naval Air Arm is currently seeking to replace its aging fleet of 40 MiG-29K aircraft. The fighter will operate from the INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier.  

After a thorough capability review of the French fighter and the US-made F-18 Super Hornet, the Indian Navy reportedly submitted a procurement request for the former. 

Unnamed defense sources have told local media that the evaluation process found the Rafale M to be “more suitable in meeting the operational requirements and criteria” of the Indian Navy compared to its competitor. 

Eventually, India hopes to develop its own carrier-capable fighter as part of the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) program. The latter is expected to enter service by 2032.

The Tejas-N was initially expected to fill that purpose but was rejected by the Indian Navy in 2016 as it was deemed “too heavy”.

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