Bye Bye Rafale, Ministry plans to buy F 18 IN
Source's close to Defense ministry confirms that India plans to produce the American F 18 in India with TATA as the indigenous supplier. The proposed sale will be discussed and to be drafted in the upcoming visit of US DOD Chief to India. US major Lockheed proposed the F 16 IN to India, due to the single engine and the Lockheed's relationship with Pakistan forced the IAF keep out Lockheed's offer.
On the other side Boeing has made good relationship with India, recent signatures of AH 64 and CH 47, and Boeing's MoU with TATA also good example for that. F 18 IN is the advanced variant of F 18 E/F version, IN version has larger Indian sub components, also allows to carry Indian and Israeli made weapons.
There is no information about how many numbers of F 18 could be produced in India, however there is no delays in the new procurement like earlier, The new DDP allows faster negotiations and contract agreements. Also there is no details mentioned in the earlier signe MoU of 36 Rafale acquisition program with France.
Many feasible options in the F 18, F 18 engines can be used in desi Tejas and the upcoming AMCA. the need of F414 engine numbers may cross over 3000 for the next twenty years, and GE already signed a contract with an Indian company to produce those engines in India,
F 18 also certified to be operated from aircraft carriers, which can be used in upcoming IAC 2 carrier, as one more the F 18's master piece variant EA 18 G also a good choice for dedicated jamming. the air force's long time dream of operating dedicated special squadron after retiring the MiG25
F 18 E/F one of the newest bird in the US Navy and air force based on the legendary F 18 hornet. which was introduced in the USAF in 2000. as of now Royal Australian force is the only export customer who use both E/F and G version of F 18.
The F 18 can be used in multiple missions, same like Rafale. the F 18 carry more variety of ammunition and more number of weapons than the Rafale. whose range is quite lower than the Rafale when comes to comparison. The new F 18 also comes with advanced modern AESA radar AN/APG 79 made by Raytheon.
The IN version comes with eleven hard points which allows the aircraft to carry more number of air to air, air to ground and air to ship munitions, Modern missiles like AIM 120 D, JDAM and Harpoon also can be used from the Indian Hornet.
The Hornet's are costs less than the Rafale in all aspects, which include weapons and acquisitions. However Rafale leads in less operating and maintenance cost. As like other US fighter jets, The F 18 too have modern avionics, electronic warfare and jamming suites. which include towed decoy's.
Buying both F 18 and Rafale makes the IAF once again in the logistics nightmare, maintaining both Rafale and F 18 is so hard since Pilots need to be trained in different platforms and also there is no option of interoperability. Less number of Pilots in the IAF also a issue operating both Rafale and F 18. ammo nightmare is also a problem. since F 18 can be support Indian and Israeli weapons, but not the french one. Especially on the air to air missiles.
It's the IAF who can send a formal proposal for the eligible aircraft, However it's the ministry who decide which one need to be bought.