The Indian Navy is planning to combine its procurement of 57 Multi Role Carrier-Borne Fighter (MRCBF) with Indian Air Force tender for 114 Multi Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) that are currently in process.
Dassault Rafale-M from France and Boeing F/A-18 is the main competitor of Navy MRCBF tender.
“We have the MiG-29K operating from the Vikramaditya and will operate from the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)-I. To replace them, we have taken up a case for the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBF) which we are trying to do along with the IAF,” Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said last week.
Combining tender for both Air Force and Navy will lead to increase in volume of aircraft which is Indian Forces going to procure, this may lower the price of aircrafts per unit.
Why Indian Navy may go with Rafale-M ?
Considering the fact that Indian Navy is going to combine its tender from IAF fighter jet tender, it is now more or less clear that Navy is going to procure Rafale-M for Carrier-Borne application.
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Indian Air Force is already acquired 36 Rafale jets from France and now going for Boeing F/A-18 for MMRCA-2.0/MRFA will not be an ideal situation for IAF as an another new platform in IAF will complicate logistical and maintenance of the aircrafts.
Diversity in Air Force fighter jets looks good and exciting in Republic Day flypast but it is not an ideal situation for any country. Currently IAF is operating just 31-33 fighter jets squadron and even in such low squadron strength we have 7 different fighter jet operational in the service.
We have MiG-21 Bison in 3 to 6 squadron, SEPECAT Jaguar in 7 squadron, MiG-29 UPG in 3 squadron (1 more squadron will add in future), Mirage 2000 in 3 squadron, Tejas MK-I in 1 squadron (1 more squadron will add in future), Su-30 MKI in 12 squadron, Rafale will come in 2 Squadron, 8 units are currently in service.
If IAF acquire F/A-18 in 6 squadron, than this will mean we will have 7 different fighter jets in our fleet (MiG-21 Bison will retire by then) and as F/A-18 will come up with a complete new weapons package, this will affect our logistics capability.
One more reason that why IAF will choose Rafale over F/A-18 is because we have already paid for India specific enhancement in Rafale deal, if IAF chooses American jet then Air Force will again have pay a hefty price for India Specific Enhancement.
With Rafale IAF can save their India Specific Enhancement fee, training cost, extra maintenance costs and will not put extra burden on logistics.
Yes, Rafale-M and F/A-18 have to go for Navy specific enhancement in order to get fit for Indian Carrier Operation.
If Navy wants to combine their tender with IAF, they will have to ho with Rafale-M as IAF will most likely go with Rafale.
While, both the platforms – Rafale-M or F/A-18 Super Hornet is equally capable and both have some advantages and some advantages as they not made by keeping Indian Forces in mind.
Although, Indian Navy chief already said that TEDBF (Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter) is the future of Naval aviation, it may possible that Navy is considering MRCBF as a backup option, if TEDBF delays.
The second case that, Navy will cut down its requirement from 57 and 36 and will acquire new jets which will become operational with IAC-1 Vikrant.
However, there is no clarity that, is IAF is going to procure 114 new fighter jets ? or they will just give a follow on order to Dassault for 36-54 additional Rafale and the rest of requirements will be fill up by Tejas-MK2.
With Tejas-MK2, TEDBF, AMCA is currently going through their development phase, it will very interesting to see, whether DRDO and HAL will met deadline this time or not.