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India Begins Rafale Carrier-Based Flight Trials 

The Indian Navy is flight testing the naval version of the Dassault Rafale aircraft for its upcoming 40,000-ton carrier. 

Trials begin on January 6 and last for 12 days at Indian Naval Station Hansa in Goa, which has a 283-meter (928 feet) mock ski jump replicating those on the country’s current and forthcoming naval carriers.

The Rafale M (Marine) is the primary aircraft on the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and has been designed for catapult-assisted take-off. Indian assessors will keenly watch the aircraft’s compatibility with the ski jump ramp used in short take-off/arrested recovery, which the plane is using for the first time.

F/A-18 Option

Another contender for the Indian Navy carrier fleet, the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III, is expected to undergo flight trials at the same facility in March. 

Unlike the French plane, the American fighter has some ski jump experience using the ground-based ramp at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. 

Navy’s Ramp Requirement

The Indian Navy issued a request for information for 57 foreign aircraft in 2017, now whittled down to 26 aircraft — 18 single-seat versions and eight twin-seat trainers — at least for initial procurement, The Economic Times revealed

The Indian daily identifies that the ramp requirement is potentially challenging for the Rafale. The trainer version of the aircraft is only designed for a shore-based training role.

However, the single and double-seat F/A-18s are capable of carrier-borne operations. Moreover, the American staple also has an electronic warfare version in the form of the EA 18G Growler, which could be pitched to Indian negotiators. 

India currently operates one aircraft carrier while another is scheduled to be commissioned this year. The current fleet of 45 Russian MiG 29Ks is not enough for the two carriers, and they have also reached their limit for technological upgrades.

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