As per a new report, Indian Navy is under advance stages of negotiation to lease 15-18 units of F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III from the United States.
A reputed OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) handle @hukum2082 confirmed that Indian Navy is in process to lease F/A-18 from US.
A possible lease of 15-18 units of FA-18 Block III is under advanced stages of negotiation for the @indiannavy
I take full blame for sparking a debate about deck lift sizes on the INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant (IAC-1) pic.twitter.com/8wtHk89jwf
— Hukum 🇮🇳 (@hukum2082) December 13, 2020
Boeing already proved Super Hornet capability to launch from Ski Jump carrier, there will be no issue for Indian Navy to launch F/A-18 from INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant.
Currently Indian Navy has around 41- 42 Russian MiG-29k carrier based fighter aircraft operating from INS Vikramaditya and INS Hansa at Goa.
As Navy second aircraft carrier INS Vikrant has completed its Basin Trials and expected to Induct into the service of Indian Navy by 2022, two squadron of MiG-29K is not enough to operate from both aircraft carrier, especially when MiG-29K has a service availability of only around 50 percent.
IAC-1 INS Vikrant will Induct by 2022 and by mid 2023 or in 2024 Vikrant will become fully operational in Indian Navy, absence of an air wing or operating 18-21 MiG-29K with just 50 percent availability will restrict the operational capability of Vikrant.
Even if Navy pursue to procure 36-57 Rafale-M or F/A-18 aircrafts it will take at least 2-3 years from now to formally sign the deal.
From the date of order, it will take at least 24 to 36 months to receive first aircraft, which means Indian Navy will receive its first aircraft by 2025-26 earliest. This means Vikrant will have to operate without any proper air wing for at least 4 years. By 2026 if we don’t add any delays in acquisition process.
If the report is true, leasing 15-18 F/A-18 Super Hornet aircrafts for Navy can fill the urgent requirement of fixed wing aircraft in Indian Navy in a very short period of time.
Another reason behind navy looking to lease F/A-18 is budget constraints. Indian Navy is going to invest Rs 45,000-50,000 crore in Project P75I to built 6 conventional submarines, Rs 1,20,000 crore in 6 Nuclear power attack submarines and almost around Rs 42,000-50,000 crore in third CATOBAR aircraft carrier INS Vishal.
Considering the amount Indian Navy will invest in next 10 years, purchasing 36-57 deck based aircraft don’t seem very rational, especially when India is already working on TEDBF (Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter) project for Navy, which will be ready to induct into the service by 2030.
As TEDBF is a indigenous project, it will meet each and every requirement of Indian Navy.
It will be very interesting to see that for how much time Navy will lease these aircrafts, what the weapon package will navy choose and will indigenous armaments like Astra integrate with the aircraft ?
Just in last month, Navy leased 2 MQ-9B high altitude long endurance drone from United States to meet urgent requirements for 2 year, plan to lease Naval Utility Helicopter is also in the pipeline by Indian Navy.
Meanwhile, it will be very interesting to see, how Indian Navy will proceed, will navy acquire new or lease old aircrafts ?
Indian Air Force is also planning to lease Aerial Refueller aircraft and additional AEW&CS (Airborne Early Warning) systems to fill urgent requirements.