Boeing has recently offered its 4.5 Gen Multirole Fighter Jet F/A-18 Block III to the Indian Navy to meet its requirement of additional fighter jets required for INS Vikrant Aircraft Carrier. The company in its India news conference on Thursday discussed the advantages of the F/A-18 Block III and said, “The Super Hornet’s unique differentiators for the Indian Navy include its two-seater carrier-compatibility which provides operational flexibility to integrate future technologies related to the manned and unmanned interface from aircraft carriers.”
In 2017, the Indian Navy had floated a Request For Information (RFI) to global fighter manufacturers and the response is currently being evaluated. However, with the new jet under development and also factoring in budgetary constraints, the Navy is in the process of cutting down the number of fighters from 57 to around 36. The final decision is still awaited.
INS Vikrant is Scheduled to enter sea trials this year and it is expected to be commissioned in 2022. Indian navy currently needs fighter jets with the capability to take off from the ski-jump carrier. It currently operates Mig-29k as its sole fighter, however, there are only 45 Mig-29Ks in service, and they are rapidly becoming obsolete. Mig 29K is a 4th Gen Soviet Built fighter jet capable of performing limited multirole functions.
It is important to note that India has recently conducted joint naval exercises with the US Navy and the Indian Navy is increasing its military cooperation with the US navy to counter China in the Indian Ocean. In this time of Network Centric Warfare, Western aircraft will be much more compatible to operate alongside QUAD members rather than Russian aircraft.
The F/A-18 Super Hornet recently concluded ski-jump tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, demonstrating its compatibility with Indian Navy carriers. Dassault Rafale is another aircraft that is currently being considered by the Indian Navy, however, it has not been tested on Ski Jump carriers and it doesn't have foldable wings.
It is important to note that India desperately needs to deploy 2 aircraft carriers in order to counter the joint threats from Pakistan & China and to stop Chinese aggression in the Indian Ocean. For that purpose, maintaining a technological edge over both of them will be of utmost importance.