India is Watching: Boeing Testing F/A-18 Super Hornets in Ski Jump Launches

August 22, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: IndiaF/A-18 Super HornetAir ForceMilitary

India is Watching: Boeing Testing F/A-18 Super Hornets in Ski Jump Launches

"Boeing has stressed how the carrier could meet India's need for a carrier and land-based multi-role fighter. Should India actually adopt the fighter, Boeing has said it would set up a completely new production facility that could be used for other programs including India's indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft program."

 

International defense contractor Boeing has been utilizing a ground-based ski jump at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland—not to get ready for some competition in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics but rather to allow India to prepare for potential aggression in the Indian Ocean from Beijing. The facilities have been used to demonstrate the capabilities of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet on a short take-off but arrested recovery configured (STOBAR) aircraft carrier.

The Indian Navy operates one such carrier already, the INS Vikramaditya, a modified Kiev-class carrier that was originally built as the Baku and entered service with the Soviet Navy before being decommissioned and sold to India in 2004. The refurbished carrier entered service with the Indian Navy in 2013 and currently serves as its flagship.

 

In addition, India is currently constructing its first domestically-built carrier INS Vikrant, and it is expected to enter service in 2023—however, it has been plagued by a series of production delays.

This week The Drive reported that Chicago-based Boeing had been conducting the ski jump demonstrations this summer at the naval air station to highlight how the advanced version of the venerable fighter can operate on carriers that don't have catapult launch systems.

"Boeing completed extensive analysis and more than 150 flight simulations on F/A-18 compatibility with Indian aircraft carriers, and while our assessment has shown the Block III Super Hornet is very capable of launching off a ski jump, this is the next step in demonstrating that capability. More details will be released upon the conclusion of the test demonstration," Justin Gibson, a Boeing spokesperson told The Drive's The War Zone website.

The twin-engine multirole combat fighter jet, which is based on the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, was designed primarily for use on U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and to replace the aging F-14 Tomcat. The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, which is now manufactured by Boeing following its merger with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, is produced as two distinct versions. The single-seat F/A-18/E and the dual-seat F/A-18/F.

The latest evolution of the F/A-18—the Block III variation—was further developed to perform a variety of tactical missions such as air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime strikes, forward air control, reconnaissance and the so-called buddy refueling.

The F/A-18E/F could certainly give the Indian Navy the firepower to take on threats in the Indo-Pacific region. The Super Hornet has eleven weapons stations, including two wing store stations, and it is able to fulfill a range of armaments that include AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles, guided air-to-ground weapons such as Harpoon, SLAM/SLAM-ER, GBU-10, GBU-51, HARM and Maverick; and free-fall air-to-ground bombs, Mk-76, BDU-48, Mk-82LD, Mk-82HD and Mk-84. The aircraft is also equipped with a General Dynamics M61A2 20mm Gatling-style gun, a hydraulically driven, six-barreled, rotary action, air-cooled, electrically fired weapon that offers selectable rates of either 4,000 or 6,000 rounds per minute.

Boeing has stressed how the carrier could meet India's need for a carrier and land-based multi-role fighter. Should India actually adopt the fighter, Boeing has said it would set up a completely new production facility that could be used for other programs including India's indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft program.

As Forbes reported, Boeing has had past success exporting military aircraft to India, and this included a deal for the Apache Guardian, the Chinook helicopters, C-17 transports and the P8I patrol plane.

Currently, the Royal Australian Air Force operates 24 Super Hornets, while Kuwait has ordered 28 of the aircraft. However, the Indian Air Force bailed out of a deal to purchase 126 fighter aircraft while the U.S. Navy has begun to look for a replacement—neither of those points will likely factor well into whatever decision the Indian Navy ultimately makes.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Wikipedia.