A French Navy Dassault Super Etendard carrier borne strike fighter aircraft, executes a touch and go landing on the flight deck aboard the US Navy (USN) Nimitz Class Aircraft Carrier, USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76). The REAGAN and embarked carrier Air Wing 14 (CVW-14) are currently deployed to the Persian Gulf as part of a routine rotation of US Maritime Forces conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the region.

France’s Rafale-M naval fighter jet will be deployed on India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, according Sakshi Tiwari of Eurasian Times. India is in the process of selecting a fighter jet for its aircraft carrier.

The Russian Mikoyan MiG-29K fighter plane, France’s Dassault Rafale-M and the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter were the last three contenders. According to Indian sources, the Russian representative made no real effort to push sales in the last year, which meant the two contenders were actually France and the US.

F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet

While the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet was thought to have a significant advantage over its French rival, given that in 2021, Boeing had made significant pitches to push sales by creating an Indian version, which took off for the first time from a short runway shaped like the deck of an aircraft carrier.

This was clearly an attempt to showcase that the modified Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet could use Vikrant’s runway. On June 15, 2022, the Super Hornet had even performed a short takeoff armed with two AGM-84 missiles.

With this sales pitch, Washington was attempting to limit Russian influence on New Delhi. Although India forms part of the US group in Asia, Washington faces several obstacles: a large portion of Indian arms production is built to Russian specifications, including both heavy ground combat armoured vehicles and combat aircraft. New Delhi is also the second largest producer of the Su-30MKI fighter after Russia. The Su-30MKI is the backbone of the Indian Air Force.

Secondly, France wields more power in India than the United States. Washington has to fight not only Russian influence but French as well. Further, France is willing to sell its weapons unlike the United States.

Washington has a difficult time granting industrial cooperation in military production. Although Boeing has a presence in this space, the US has not provided any indication that New Delhi will be a part of the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet production.

On its part, India has made amply clear that at least 50% of military purchases have to be produced domestically. New Delhi strictly follows the “Made in India” program.

France has some advantages also. India already operates 36 Rafale fighter jets, which have become operational in 2022. In 2021, India had purchased 24 used French Mirage 2000 fighters as well. France had agreed to assist India in the production of helicopter engines, sensing an opportunity to position itself in the lucrative Indian market. Further, France also transferred technology in a rather sensitive with the local Mk III light helicopter’s propulsion. Further, India’s Tejas fighter is based on the French Rafale design line. It is no secret that French technical knowhow, as well as French components and parts have been integrated into Tejas.

New Delhi has strategically invested in Rafales since they can deter the Chinese J-20, J-10, and J-11 aircraft.

The United States continues to supply components and parts to the Indian arms industry with Lockheed Martin choosing India to build its plant for the wings of the F-16 fighter jet. The Indian plant is expected to play a critical role in the global supply of spare parts for F-16 operators.