Rafale-M Vs F/A-18: Foreign fighter jets to be on aircraft carrier Vikrant as 'interim arrangements'
Indian Navy Vice Chief Vice Admiral SN Ghormade said: "We designed the Vikrant for operating the MiG-29K, but we would ultimately deploy the indigenous TEDBF (Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter) fighter aircraft for which we are working with DRDO. For the interim, we are looking at Rafale, and F/A-18 aircraft and trials have been carried out."
With the first indigenous aircraft carrier Vikrant slated to be commissioned into the service by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 2, the Indian Navy on Thursday stated that it is looking at Rafale (M) and F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III fighter aircraft for 'interim arrangements'.
Responding to queries, Indian Navy Vice Chief Vice Admiral SN Ghormade said: "We designed the Vikrant for operating the MiG-29K, but we would be ultimately deploying the indigenous TEDBF (Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter) fighter aircraft for which we are working with DRDO. For the interim, we are looking at Rafale and F-18 aircraft, and trials have been carried out."
It must be noted that the French-origin Rafale (M) and the US-made F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III have successfully conducted trials on INS Vikrant months ago. As per the Indian Navy official, "Evaluation is being done to select the aircraft, and we hope that the decision will be taken earliest."
Currently, the Indian Navy operates with Russian-origin MiG-29K. The Vice Admiral informed that the aircraft trials on the carrier would commence in November based on the weather condition.
Aircraft carrier Vikrant will be deployed for 'operational' purposes by next year, an official said.
Vice Admiral Ghormade also said that the commissioning of INS Vikrant would contribute to ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
Replying to a question on the ongoing tension between China and Taiwan, he said: "Firstly, I would like to assure you that the Indian Navy is fully prepared to protect its maritime boundaries. In all these issues, you need to continuously develop and keep updated with the growing technologies."
Vice Admiral Ghormade said the commissioning of the aircraft carrier would be an 'unforgettable' day as it would significantly enhance the country’s overall maritime capabilities. Asked whether the Indian Navy is pushing for the construction of a second aircraft carrier, he said deliberations are on over it.
Talking about INS Vikrant, he said its commissioning would be a historic occasion and that it is also a symbol of 'national unity' as its components came from many states and Union Territories.
Built over a cost of Rs 20,000 crore, the carrier successfully completed the fourth and final phase of the sea trials last month. With its commissioning, India has joined a select group of nations having the niche capability to design and build an aircraft carrier indigenously. The ship has over 2,300 compartments, designed for a crew of around 1700 people, including specialised cabins to accommodate women officers.
The aircraft carrier has a top speed of around 28 knots and a cruising speed of 18 knots with an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles.