New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: A Rafale maritime fighter aircraft was sent to a naval facility in Goa on Thursday evening by the Dassault Aviation to demonstrate its abilities to carry out operations from aircraft carriers as India eyes to expand its naval capabilities.

Senior Indian Navy officials, quoted by news agency ANI, have said that tests will begin from Friday and would be conducted on in-service INS Vikramaditya and the soon to be inducted INS Vikrant.

"The aircraft would be carrying out demonstrations with a full load including a dummy weapons package from the Shore-based Test Facility (SBTF) at the Hansa naval air station here," ANI quoted the officials as saying.

In 2017, the Indian Navy had issued a Request for Information (RFI) to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its aircraft carrier. Rafale-M - along with F-18 Super Hornet (Boeing, US), MIG-29K (Russia) and Gripen (Saab, Sweden) - is in contention for the deal.

All you need to know about the Rafale-M variant:

Rafale-M, which entered the service of the French Navy in 2001, is a carrier-borne version of the Rafale fighter jets. It is a twin-engine jet and is slightly different from the original Rafale - which is being used by the Indian Air Force - as it has a "reinforced undercarriage and nose wheel, a bigger arrester hook, an integrated ladder", reported Hindustan Times.

Quoting sources, the leading English daily reported that Rafale-M's dimensions would allow the Navy to have 14 such fighter jets at the INS Vikramaditya.

Rafale-M, which can carry up to four to five tonnes of external load, can also carry nuclear-capable missiles, along with SCALP, Hammer and Meteor missiles.

Sources - quoted by various news agencies, including PTI, - suggest that Rafale-M is the frontrunner to be inducted into the Navy. Here it should be noted that it is the only non-US fighter-type cleared to operate from the decks of US carriers.

India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 59,000 crore for the Indian Air Force.

The first batch of five Rafale jets, manufactured by French aerospace major Dassault Aviation, arrived in India on July 29, 2020. Already 33 Rafale jets have been delivered to the IAF by the plane's maker Dassault Aviation.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly, during a visit to India last month, indicated that France will be interested to supply the carrier-based jets. "We know that the aircraft carrier will soon be... that aircraft are needed. We are open and ready to provide any other Rafale if this is India's decision," she said.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma