The Indian Navy may soon be faced with a difficult decision as it chooses between two advanced fighter jets, the F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Rafale M. Speaking at the Raisina Dialogue, Navy chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar noted that both aircraft meet the requirements of the Navy and that the decision between them would ultimately be made by the government.
Adm. Kumar highlighted that the Rafale M, which shares commonality with the Air Force regarding spares and support, is one of the options being considered. He also noted that each aircraft has its own strengths and weaknesses and that other factors, such as the commonality of spare parts and support, will also be considered.
While an indigenous Twin Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF) is under development by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to operate off the Navy’s aircraft carriers, the 26 jets planned to be procured from abroad will fill the gap in the interim as the existing MiG-29Ks may not last until the TEDBF is ready. Adm. Kumar suggested that the Navy may get the TEDBF by 2034.
Speaking on the “future of warfare” at the Raisina Dialogue, Adm. Kumar was joined by several chiefs of the Navy from other countries. He emphasised that maritime domain challenges were traditional, non-traditional, and transnational. While all countries may not agree on some issues, most come together on others as part of issue-based convergence.
The panel also discussed the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the military, with Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, cautioning that while AI can aid in real-time decision-making, it is vital to maintain a human dimension in military operations.
As the Indian Navy weighs its options between the F/A-18 Super Hornet and Rafale M, the decisions made will have significant implications for the country’s naval capabilities in the future. With the support of other Navies, however, India can look towards formulating a comprehensive way forward in the face of evolving maritime domain challenges.