Dassault Rafale vs Boeing F/A-18: Which jet will fly from India’s INS Vikrant?


With the Indian Navy getting its first indigenous aircraft carrier in the form of INS Vikrant, all eyes are on our naval defence force to choose an advanced fighter jet that will replace the ageing MiG-29K. The Indian Navy initiated the process to acquire 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its new-gen aircraft carriers around four years ago. However, they will initially induct about 30 advance fighter jets in the fleet and the choice is between Dassault Rafale M and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet. The INS Vikrant will currently operated with Russia-made MiG-29K, until a new fighter jet between these two is inducted by the Indian Navy.

Recently, the navy carried out trials with the Dassault Rafale M, which is a French-made 4.5 gen fighter jet already in service with the IAF and also US-made Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, to check the operational capabilities of these jets on aircraft carriers. Both the jets get Air Force as well as Naval versions and successfully completed their trials in Goa.

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Here we compare the French Rafale and American F-18 to understand how they stack against each other for the Indian forces?

Rafale is a French word meaning “gust of wind” and is a twin-engine multirole 4.5 gen fighter aircraft manufactured and designed by Dassault Aviation. The Indian Air Force has placed a massive order to induct 36 Rafale jets to form two Squadrons, one in North India and another in South India. The Rafale Marine is the Naval version of the Rafale fighter jets with similar configuration.

The Dassault Rafale has a delta wing design and is capable of higher G-forces as much as 11G and is available in both single and dual seating cabin configurations. The Rafale is 15.27 metre long and a wingspan of 10.80 metre. The Rafale has GIAT 30M/719B cannon mounted on it with the capability of controlled 0.5 or 1 second bursts at 2,500 RPM. Rafale is equipped with a primary missile as the multi-target, fire-and-forget, air to air MBDA MICA missile. In BVR(Beyond Visual Range) air-to-air missile, Rafale has MBDA Meteor.

Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet

The Navy’s F/A-18E Super Hornet, developed by Boeing Company has a 20% larger airframe, with 41% more range and improved General Electric F414 engines (an upgrade over the Hornet’s F404), providing 35% more thrust. Just so you know, Boeing has been pitching the F-18 to the Indian Air Force as well. The one for the Navy is the Naval version of the F-18 called the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet. 

The F-18 Super Hornet has Mach 1.8 speed, similar to the Rafale thanks to the GE sourced dual engines and is equipped with M61A1 Vulcan rotating cannon that can fire 6,000 rounds per minute. Super Hornet has semi-active radar homing Air Intercept Missile (AIM-7 Sparrow) missile. In BVR (Beyond Visual Range) air-to-air missile, Super Hornet has AIM-120 AMRAAM. 

Indian Navy TEDBF

The Indian Navy is also working on the TEDBF program which is the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter program for made-in-India fighter jets based on the HAL Tejas LCA. Since these jets will take time to develop and will eventually replace foreign fighter jets in the fleet, Navy needs some modern machines in the interim to replace the Russian MIGs.

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