Dassault Aviation has offered its Rafale-M to meet the Indian Navy’s requirements for 27 deck-based fighter jets and has confirmed that Rafale-M has a commonality factor of 95% with the Rafale jets in terms of components and systems, which will reduce the need for additional ground equipment or tooling to maintain the fleet as Indian Navy and Indian Air force can service the fleet. This comes amid growing PR media activation by the rival Boeing in support of its F-18 offer to the Indian.
The Mig-29K and TEDBF which the Indian Navy aims to create to replace the Mig-29K, are both 25 tons class aircraft, according to Dassault, thus they won’t need any additional heavier ground equipment for towing or storage at land installations.
However, the French Navy utilises Airforce facilities and Rafale-B Twin Seater Trainer aircraft for joint training of its pilots and is willing to provide such facility to the Indian Navy for its pilot intake. The Rafale-M is not available in Twin Seater version for deck-based missions.
Rafale-M has shown that it can transport a 3.5-ton payload from a shore-based facility built to resemble an aircraft carrier at INS Hansa Naval Base while performing demonstration flights in Goa earlier this year.
The IAF’s Rafale fleet’s weapons may be employed on the Rafale-M and vice versa, which will simplify inventory management and improve interoperability between the two forces. A strengthened under carriage and an arrestor hook on the Rafale-M make it somewhat bulkier and add 300 kg to its overall empty weight when compared to the Air Force version to handle the additional stresses of naval landings.
While Dassault asserts that Rafale-M aircraft can fit in the lift on both Indian aircraft carriers as well as hangar space under the deck, Rafale-M cannot fold its multi spar wings to save storage space.