Rafale-M emerges as top contender for IN’s $4.5 Bn Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters program

It has been reported that France based aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation’s Rafale-M has emerged as the frontrunner to bag a mega contract from the Indian Navy for 26 fighters.

Earlier in January 2017, the Indian Navy issued a global Request for Information (RFI) for 57 Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighters (MRCBFs) to be equipped on India’s future carrier Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC)-I or INS Vikrant.

Later on, the quantity was subsequently reduced to 26 fighters which are expected to cost $4.5-5 Billion approximately and most likely to be procured through the Government-to-Government (G2G) route.

These include eight twin-seater trainer variants and 18 single-seater variants.

The contenders included French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation’s Rafale M fighter, SAAB’s Gripen Maritime fighter, Boeing’s F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and Russia’s MiG-29K fighter jet.

The deal to acquire 26 aircraft is seen as a stopgap till the Indian indigenous Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) being developed by the DRDO is ready, and which is expected at least a decade to become fully operational.

About Rafale-M: Rafale-M is a single-seater aircraft for carrier operations. The envisaged roles include air-to-surface attack, shipborne air defence, aerial refueling, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, etc.

The requirements are flexible, including single- or multi-engine, short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) or catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR), or both.

Armaments are to include a gun plus four beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and two all-aspect air-to-air missiles.