India links purchase of carrier-based fighters to major technology transfer

In 2017 the Indian Navy [Indian Navy] launched the MRCBF program [Multi Role Carrier Borne Fighters] for the purchase of 57 multi-purpose combat aircraft that can be deployed from an aircraft carrier in the STOBAR configuration [avec tremplin, ndlr] than CATOBAR [catapultes et brins d’arrêt]. This limited possible candidates for Dassault Aviation’s Rafale Marine and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet.

In January, at the naval base INS Hansa, the ability of the Rafale M to take off from the cockpit equipped with a springboard was evaluated. [Goa]. And, apparently, these tests were decisive. In recent days, two F / A-18 Super Hornet aircraft have undergone a similar treatment. But the results are not yet known.

In order to have a better chance on its side, France would offer India to transfer four Rafale M taken from the fleet of the French fleet to India with a view to the early adoption of the INS Vikrant, the first carrier aircraft developed by Indian industry, into combat service. Undoubtedly, this topic was raised during the recent visit to Paris by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi… But no details have been leaked since then…

Meanwhile, New Delhi clarified its plans for the MRCBF program this week. First, the reduction of the target from 57 to 26 aircraft was confirmed. At the moment, the Indian Navy would like eight two-seat aircraft to train its pilots and possibly take part in combat sorties. This does not speak in favor of the Rafale M, which only exists in a single-seat version…

Further, India does not plan to lease carrier-based fighters, preferring to purchase new aircraft under an over-the-counter contract. But this must be linked to a “broader strategic agreement” with the aircraft’s country of origin, which will be chosen in line with the Indian Navy’s recommendations.

Indeed, according to the daily Hindustan Times, which quotes Indian officials, New Delhi has ambitions to develop aircraft engines as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, which aims to strengthen India’s strategic autonomy.

Already France’s Safran, which manufactures the M88 reactors for Rafale, took the lead in February 2021 by forging a partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. [HAL] for, inter alia, the design and development of 110 kN high thrust reactors intended for the AMCA program [Advance Medium Combat Aircraft]which will develop a 5th generation fighter-bomber.

However, the Indian Ministry of Defense, Hindustan Times clarifies, is exploring the possibility of cooperation with the United States, given that the HAL Tejas fighter is equipped with a GE-404 engine … And that the GE-414 can be considered for “AMCA …

In addition, India also intends to cut another program, this time for the Indian Air Force. Indeed, according to the Delovoy Mir newspaper, the MRFA project [Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft], estimated at $ 20 billion, will be sent to order 57 aircraft instead of the 114 originally planned. And all of them will have to be produced locally under the “Made in India” program. Recall Lockheed Martin [F-21] and Boeing [F/A-18 Super Hornet]saab [Gripen E/F]Eurofighter consortium [Typhoon]Moment [MiG-35] and Dassault Aviation [Rafale] are in line for this market.

However, there is no doubt that the intent attributed to the Indian authorities will be in favor of the Rafale candidacy … In October 2020, when asked about a possible order for a second batch of French combat aircraft, the IAF Chief of Staff, Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria shied away from committing … However , according to him, “such a decision would automatically imply a reduction in the number of aircraft that must be ordered through MRFA tenders.”