France’s Dassault Aviation has offered to showcase its naval Rafale aircraft in India early next year to pitch it to the Indian Navy, The Print revealed, citing sources.
The Indian Navy is looking to replace its more than three-decade-old 45 Russian MiG 29K aircraft in the 2030s.
According to the outlet, the Rafale will take off from the country’s shore-based test facility at INS Hansa, Goa in January, not from an aircraft carrier.
During its India visit, the aircraft will display its STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery) capability, which is different from the CATOBAR (catapult take-off but arrested recovery) currently in use on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. According to the outlet, Indian aircraft carriers employ STOBAR.
The Indian Navy issued a Request for Information to foreign companies for 57 new fighters in 2017 but has yet to announce its next step.
Apart from Rafale, Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter is another contender to fulfill the navy’s requirements. However, with the announcement of an indigenous Twin-Engine Carrier-Based Deck Fighter (TEBDF) aircraft development by the country’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, the expected global aircraft requirement is likely to be reduced to around 36.
The Indian Navy currently operates its sole aircraft carrier, Vikramaditya, with another carrier, Vikrant, undergoing sea trials. The Vikrant is likely to be fully operational by mid-2023. With two operational carriers in the service, and a possible third to join, the navy has expressed concern about not having enough aircraft to operate on the carriers.