The IAF has already made it clear that the 36 Rafale fighter jets that are being negotiated with France are inadequate to meet its operational requirement. There is a view emerging in the Indian security establishment that F/A-18 Super Hornets can also negate the sale of F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan by the US. Super Hornet is a carrier based multi-role fighter which can be used by the Indian navy as well. Sources said the aircraft can meet both the IAF and Indian navy’s operational requirement. India had considered F-18 Super Hornet during the earlier hunt for 126 medium multi-role fighter jets.
But the US entry lost out to the French Rafale. With the government scrapping the proposed contract which could not be sealed even after prolonged discussions with the French side, it opened doors for other fighter makers to make fresh bids. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has said the government is working out the best deal with the French.
The contract, said to be in the final lap of negotiations is stuck over the price of 36 jets being sought by the French side. Sources said the deal is working out to be worth Rs 60,000 crore. There is a sense of urgency in acquiring new aircraft as IAF’s force levels are depleting due to an ageing fleet. Sources said the “Make in India” proposal of F-18s will solve the problem on the long term basis. Boeing’s proposal also involves significant transfer of technology with a substantial indigenous content.
The proposal will also benefit the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft “Tejas” programme which needs to be resurrected after prolonged delays. Sources said the acquisition can be put on fast track considering the urgency. The government has already stressed on going for direct military sale the route which is faster instead of inviting global bids.