The 5 assets of the Rafale against the Super Hornet for Indian naval aviation

The Rafale M1, the first aircraft in the program intended for French naval aeronautics, is today at the heart of attention for Dassault Aviation and the entire Rafale Team. Indeed, it is this aircraft which was sent on January 6 to the Indian naval air base in Goa to demonstrate its ability to be operated from a Ski-Jump type platform, and not from an aircraft carrier equipped with catapults. These tests, the first of which took place this morning and took place nominally, will last until the beginning of February and will make it possible to validate not only the ability of the aircraft to take air from of this springboard, but also to validate its performance in this configuration, in particular in terms of carrying capacity in terms of fuel and armament, both simultaneously influencing the take-off weight and the drag as the Rafale and its two M88 turbojets will have to compensate to take off.

The Rafale competitor in this competition which involves 36 to 57 aircraft intended to operate from the two aircraft carriers with springboards of the Indian Navy, the INS Vikramaditya currently in service and INS Vikrant, which is completing its operational tests, is none other than the F / A-18 E / F Super Hornet of the American Boeing, which will have to go through the same test phase as the Rafale in Goa during the month of March. In this decisive competition for the two manufacturers, the French Rafale has several very important assets, 5 in total, likely to convince New Delhi and the Indian Navy in the face of the numerous arguments and pressures exerted by Washington to favor its own aircraft.

1- Small dimensions with important consequences

The Rafale's main asset in this competition is its reduced size, in particular against the Super Hornet. With a length of 15,27 m for a wingspan of 10,86 meters, the Rafale is indeed 3 meters shorter and 3 meters narrower than the Super Hornet, its 18,62 meters long and its wingspan of 13,62. mr. Above all, it is of smaller dimensions than that of the Mig-29K, 17,3 meters long and with a wingspan of 12 meters, the device which today equips the combat flotillas of the Indian naval aviation, and around which Indian aircraft carriers were designed. The consequences of these reduced dimensions of the French aircraft are indeed very important for the Indian Navy, since it will not require any adaptation of the existing infrastructure to be deployed on board the existing aircraft carriers, in particular concerning the two elevators allowing transfer the aircraft from the flight deck to the hangars. However, it seems that because of its length, the Super Hornet would impose, for its part, significant modifications of these infrastructures, causing additional costs, immobilization of ships and additional delays.

The new Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikrant will be declared operational this year. All it needs is modern fighter jets to become a powerful combat ship.

On the other hand, these reduced dimensions will allow the Indian aircraft carriers to carry more Rafales than Super Hornets. Thus, the INS Vikramaditya will only be able to accommodate and implement 10 or 11 Super Hornets in the best case, against 14 Rafale. However, the operational power of an aircraft carrier, its ability to defend itself and to strike, depends directly on the number of aircraft that it is capable of deploying, and a difference of 30 to 40% in format for the hunting on board is naturally a major issue, especially in the face of Chinese ships which, themselves, embark about twenty J-15. Note that according to the Indian press, the Rafale would also be compatible with the landing mirrors and stopper strands of Indian aircraft carriers, unlike the Super Hornet.

2- Potentially higher performance

If the Super-Hornet is more imposing than the Rafale, it is also heavier, with an empty mass of 14,5 tonnes against 10,2 tonnes for the French aircraft. The wing area of ​​the two aircraft is relatively close, with 45,7 m2 for the Rafale against 46,5 m2 for the Super-Hornet. To propel itself, the F / A 18 E / F carries two General Electric F414 reactors each developing 63,2 KN dry, and 97,9 KN with Post Combustion, where the two Rafale M88s only develop 50 KN at sec and 75 KN with post-combustion. However, the fuel and armament capacity of the Super-Hornet, 15 tons for a maximum take-off weight of 29,5 tons, is strictly identical to that of the Rafale with a maximum take-off weight of 25 tons.

With an empty mass more than 4 tonnes greater than the Rafale M, and an equivalent wing area, the Super Hornet consumes much more energy to carry the same payload as the Rafale.

The rest of this article is for subscribers only

Full-access articles are available in the “ Free Items“. Subscribers have access to the News, Analyzes and Syntheses articles in full. Articles in the Archives (more than 2 years old) are reserved for professional subscribers.

From €5,90 per month (€3,0 per month for students) – No time commitment.

Related posts