Boeing hard-sells Super Hornet, tests it for Indian Navy carriers - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Monday 21 December 2020

Boeing hard-sells Super Hornet, tests it for Indian Navy carriers

India has been offered the advanced Block III Super Hornet, with five major enhancements


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 22nd Dec 20


The Boeing Company, which has sold the Indian military more aircraft types this decade than any other vendor, has made a strong play in another lucrative tender: the Indian Navy’s acquisition of 57 multi-role carrier-based fighters (MRCBF), worth an estimated $7 billion.


Boeing announced on Monday, what has been rumoured for weeks: “Boeing and the US Navy recently concluded the ‘ski jump’ trials, demonstrating the…  [F/A-18 Super Hornet’s] suitability for Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers.


The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which Boeing is offering in the MRCBF tender, is primarily designed to take off from US aircraft carriers with the help of a catapult that accelerates the aircraft to take-off speed.


In contrast, both Indian Navy carriers – the in-service INS Vikramaditya and the soon-to-be commissioned INS Vikrant – are built on the Russian design philosophy. They launch aircraft from a ski-jump, without using a catapult. Boeing’s confirmation that the Super Hornet has flown off a ski-jump is a statement that it is ready to operate off existing Indian carriers.


“The STOBAR, or Short Take-off but Arrested Recovery. test program for F/A-18 Super Hornet was conducted at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland, USA,” Boeing stated on Monday.

In 2008, Boeing told the Indian Navy that simulation studies had determined that the F/A-18 could get airborne off a ski-jump. But it has taken the US Navy and Boeing 12 years to actually demonstrate this with live take-offs.


The Indian and US navies coordinate closely in the Indian Ocean region and the two defence ministries set up a joint working group (JWG) for aircraft carrier cooperation in 2015. US Navy designers have helped in framing specifications for India’s proposed third carrier, which will launch its aircraft using a catapult, American style.


“We have been working closely with the Indian Navy on the performance requirements for the MRCBF program. The ski jump [trial] concluded goes a step further and will help validate the past studies conducted by us on the ability of F/A-18 Super Hornet to operate effectively from the ski jump,” said Boeing.


Boeing revealed it has been conducting simulation analysis of ski-jump take-offs since 2018. During the actual trials a Super Hornet was equipped with sensors to measure the extra strain involved. Then, take-offs were progressively conducted with heavier takeoff weights and shorter takeoff distances. 


Boeing has already built for the US Navy more than 570 Super Hornets and 160 Growlers – the Super Hornet variant equipped for electronic warfare. Now, it is developing an improved version called the Block III, which will start delivery next year.


Ankur Kanaglekar, who is heading the Super Hornet’s campaign in India, says India will get the latest Block III fighters, with major improvements over the current variant.


First, the F/A-18 Super Hornet will be offered to India in both a single seater (E-Variant) and two-seater (F-Variant) configuration, with both being carrier compatible. “The two-seater variant will allow Indian pilots to fly advanced missions that benefit from a second pilot.


The Block III incorporates five major capability improvements. It has a longer airframe life of 10,000 hours, compared to the 6,000 hours of the Block II. It has “conformal fuel tanks” that are built into the aircraft, increasing internal fuel carriage. It is less visible to enemy radar and has advanced networking architecture that allows digital interworking with the navy’s P-8I Poseidon maritime aircraft and other US-origin aircraft. 


Finally, Kanaglekar underlined that the US-India defence partnership would get a boost from having the Super Hornet on Indian carriers. “Built around Super Hornet, the two navies can potentially collaborate on operational readiness, carrier integration, technologies, pilot training and development,” he said.


The US Navy has already contracted for 78 Block III Super Hornets and Boeing has delivered the first two flight test aircraft this year. The delivery of operational fighters to the US Navy will begin next year.


  1. Well written piece, just pointing out a potential error in the 4th paragraph:
    "soon-to-be commissioned INS Virat" should this read "soon-to-be commissioned INS Vikrant". Thank you.

  2. NSR says ---

    " Boeing hard-sells Super Hornet "

    Wrong headline Colnel Sahib....
    Right headline would be ...

    " India desperately needs F/A-18 E/F Block IIIand Growlers for its small carriers with smaller fighter elevators "

    It is so India will not keep losing the top gun naval fighter pilots like Commodore Nishant Singh...
    As a Congress and UPA supporter and Army man, it does not matter to you how many pilots were martyred in the flying coffins in Migs...
    But for Indian Navy it matters immensely...

    F/A-18 will fold its wings and fit nicely in two ACs...
    Right now it is the only choice India has with Rafale wings can't be folded and it is damned expensive too...

    If you read the following article then you woud know why F/A-18 E/F Block III would be a great choice...

    Read some of the best features of it and also be known that it carries a new generation LRASM anti-ship missile... which is a 1000 kg and 500 km range monster missile ... F/A-18 does not need to get closer to a warship and also it will keep any enemy warships far far far away from the Carrier Battle Group...

    I hope that you will be kind to fighter pilots and their families lives...

  3. The F 18s are 1970s vintage.It might be a good idea to revisit why the IAF rejected them for their Requirements!Then how are we going to be assured that this aircraft if inducted will be provided technical/life time support for the next 40 years?Many systems/components fitted will be going out of production well before that as the US has already started replacing these aircraft!

  4. @Anonymous 23:22

    Of course you're correct. Have made the correction.

  5. @Anonymous 12:15

    "As a Congress and UPA supporter and Army man, it does not matter to you how many pilots were martyred in the flying coffins in Migs..."

    Stopped reading beyond that point!

  6. I hope India is smart enough to see the opportunity. US systems have served India well, C17, C130, Apache, P8, etc...with predictable costs and excellent reliability and no kick backs.


  7. Although a good buy for our country, it's highly unlikely to happen. With biden in dc(pro-chin), relations will dampen if not sour. French & russians will be back as primary vendors.

  8. Let Navy combine its requirements with IAF ‘s MMRCA. The competition for 114+36/57 fighters will be between Rafale/F18.
    This can lead to volumes necessary to assemble in India.
    We can have one academy , BRD, spares etc between 2 forces, save on money & ensure interoperability.

    We should already have one armed forces school for helicopter : pilots , technicians & maintenace engineers.

  9. NSR sys...

    Whole India and world knows that in 2008, there was not INS Vikramditya or any Naval fighter requisition at all...

    Russia sold India INS Vikramditya as part of package deal to buy Mig-29K...
    INS Vikramditya was commissioned in 2013...

    So Boeing never bid for any naval fighters in 2008 or India tried to procure any naval fighters...

    In 2008, there was only 126 MMRCA tender for Indian Airforce fighters...

    So your write ups many times are FAKE and TWISTED...

    Your ignorance of real facts and censoring of my remarks smacks that of congress emergency dictatorship censorship...
    Any journalist who does not explore the truths are not worth a PAISA worth of journalist or reporter...

    Truth matters... dismissing or belittling Boeing fighter is not a honorable thing as it is the only proven and safe warfighter...
    F/A-18E/F Block III is a perfect fit for Indian Navy Small Aircraft Carriers...

    I am letting you know so that you learn a thing or two in your reminder of your life...

    Show some humility...


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last