It was in 2008 that Boeing officially communicated to the Indian Navy that F/A-18 Super Hornet fighters could operate off the (then under refurbishment) Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier. Twelve years later, Boeing has had the US Navy demonstrate a crucial aspect of operations of the Gorshkov (now INS Vikramaditya) — launching the steam catapult-launched Super Hornet off an angled ski-jump. The demonstration was a crucial requirement for Boeing to earn consideration in the Indian Navy’s MRCBF, a contest to procure up to 57 multirole carrier-based fighters for current and future aircraft carriers.
Twelve years ago in 2008, Livefist had reported on Boeing’s simulation findings on the Super Hornet’s compatibility with the Gorshkov/Vikramaditya deck. A portion of those simulations has basically been done in real life with the ski-jump test. While Boeing believes that it has satisfactorily answered other compatibility questions, including deck handling and the Super Hornet’s size vis-a-vis the hangar lift on the Vikramaditya and Vikrant, questions remain.
Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft has conducted a successful and safe launch from a ski-jump ramp demonstrating its ability to operate from ski-jump-equipped aircraft carriers.
The trials conducted at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River in Maryland are being driven by an Indian Navy requirement for 57 carrier-based fighter jets. The service operates a single STOBAR (Short Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) carrier equipped with a ski-jump ramp and also has another STOBAR carrier under construction.
The Indian Navy is seeking to procure 57 new carrier-borne fighter jets under its Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighter (MRCBF) program to complement its fleet of Russian-made MiG-29K jets.
The new jets are to be deployed on the Navy’s sole operational aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, and INS Vikrant (also called Indigenous Aircraft Carrier 1, or IAC-1) which is under construction at Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL) in Kochi, Kerala. Both these vessels are STOBAR carriers equipped with a ski-jump ramp.
The main contenders for the MRCBF program are France’s Dassault Rafale M (a variant of F3-R standard) and USA’s Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (Block III variant). Since both these fighters are currently operated from aircraft carriers equipped with CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) system – U.S. Navy and French Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers – they should prove their capability to operate from STOBAR carriers.
The Indian Navy currently operates a single aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, and is to commission its first indigenous aircraft carrier, the new Vikrant class, in a few years. A debate continues to rage within the procurement system over whether the navy requires a third aircraft carrier (ostensibly a flat-top carrier named the Vishal class), with budgetary pressures likely to shape next steps despite a navy leadership that has lately insisted that a third aircraft carrier is non-negotiable.
F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a twin-engine, carrier-capable, multirole fighter aircraft developed by McDonnell Douglas (now produced by Boeing) based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet aircraft.
The U.S. Navy operates the Super Hornet from its Nimitz-class and the new Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers. The jets entered service with the Navy in 2001, replacing the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, and serving alongside the original Hornet.
The Super Hornet is also operated by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) and the Kuwait Air Force has the aircraft on order. Australia is operating the Super Hornet as a land-based aircraft.