New Delhi, Jan 07: After a historic purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircrafts for its Air force, India is now testing Rafale-M (Marine) for its Navy. Rafale-M could be used on INS Vikramaditya Aircraft carrier. On Friday India tested Rafale-M on INS Vikramaditya as well as India’s indeginious aircraft carrier 1 which will be deployed as INS Vikrant.
The Rafale-M aircraft is the F4 equivalent standard naval version of the Rafale. The marine version of the Rafale jet has a reinforced undercarriage and nose wheel, a bigger arrester hook, an integrated ladder, and other minor differences from the Rafale currently in use in the Indian Air Force.
According to naval aircraft experts, the Rafale-M is better suited for use on aircraft carriers than the F18 Hornet fighter from the US for several reasons. They pointed out that it can fit into the lift bay of the Vikramaditya, unlike the F18 which cannot fit the lift of the Vikramaditya even with folded wings. The Rafale-M's dimensions also mean more of them (14) can fit onto the deck of the Vikramaditya as compared to 10 or 11 F18s. Apart from that, interoperability between Rafale-M and Rafale is much easier and swifter compared to Rafale and F-18 Hornet. It also reduces maintenance cost of aircraft if it is bought from a similar manufacturer, compared to different manufacturers.
It also requires very minimal modification to the wheel-chokes of the Vikramaditya, which are reversible and can be de-modified, if required.
The Rafale-M can carry up to four-five tonnes of external load (with full internal fuel) for a ski take-off. With lesser internal fuel, it can carry more weapons depending upon mission requirements. Thus it can carry out all roles, including combat air patrol, intercept, AD escort, as well as sea and land-strike with full internal fuel.
Officials involved with the matter also added that unlike the F18s, which requires the carriers to be fitted with a new carrier optical landing system, the Rafale M’s can work with the existing one on the Vikramaditya.
There’s also the benefit of a common platform across the navy and the Air Force, one of the people said. Apart from synergies in logistics and maintenance, this person added, Indian Navy pilots could be trained on IAF’s Rafales for “faster induction”.
The Rafale-M sent for testing is the latest version of the fighter with India-specific enhancements. It is nuclear-capable, carries Meteor air-to-air missiles, SCALP air-to-ground missiles, and Hammer precision guided ammunition.