The Indian Navy has officially opened vendor discussions with Boeing Defense and Dassault Aviation under its most ambitious current aviation thrust, a quest for 57 multirole fighters to operate off its future aircraft carriers. Livefist can confirm that while the navy did receive four responses in response to its call for information last year, only two are being regarded as ‘serious contenders’.
A top Indian Navy aviation and procurement officer confirmed proceedings on the Multirole Carrier Borne Fighter (MRCBF) project to Livefist. He said, “We are treating only two of the responses as being from serious and ready contenders. This is in the interests of our current requirements and timelines.”
As projected here on Livefist before, the contest is progressing as a direct face-off between Boeing’s F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet and a modified version of Dassault’s Rafale M F3R standard. Livefist can confirm that the Indian Navy isn’t regarding by the same measure of seriousness the two other responses it has received — from Russia for the MiG-29K and from Sweden’s Saab for the concept Gripen Maritime. It is all but official, therefore, that these last two contenders don’t have a place in the potential race.
A request for proposal (RfP) process for the 57 naval fighters, to be executed under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model, could begin later this year. The navy is in the process of finetuning operational staff requirements before freezing naval air staff requirements (NASR).
While the navy hasn’t stipulated engine numbers and launch configuration in its RFI sent out last year, Livefist gathers that planners are steeply inclined towards catapult launch (CATOBAR) operations, all but confirming that India’s future aircraft carriers (IAC-2 onwards) will be flat-top vessels, rather than the ski-jump fitted aircraft carriers it has operated thus far (barring the original INS Vikrant in its early configuration). India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, the new Vikrant-class, will be a ski-jump fitted ship like the INS Vikramaditya and INS Viraat before it. (end of excerpt)
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