Is India Ready for the F-35?

Last year, two units of the advanced Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter took to the skies over India during Aero India, leaving an unforgettable impression on the audience with its cutting-edge design and exceptional aerobatic maneuvers.

As reported by CBS, this debut caused a great commotion among attendees, who were “astonished by the design and aerial acrobatics of the fighter.” Beyond the spectacle, the presence of the F-35 at this air event opened the debate about the future of this aircraft and the strengthening of strategic relations between the United States and India.

F-35 in India: Event that resonates in geopolitics

“Frankly, we have already witnessed American commitments at this level,” said Manmohan Bahadur, retired vice marshal of the Indian Air Force. “However, the geopolitical context has changed. With China showing itself to be more assertive, this event takes on particular relevance.”

The display of the F-35 comes at a crucial time for India, which is seeking to modernize its fighter arsenal in the face of growing threats from its neighbors, China and Pakistan.

From CBS, it is reported that the United States, selective in its recipients of the F-35, has not yet confirmed whether it has proposed the sale to India. Similarly, there has been no official communication from the Indian Air Force in this regard.

Bahadur expressed skepticism about India’s acquisition of the F-35, arguing that while it is undoubtedly a world-class fighter, its integration into the current Indian defense scheme seems unlikely in the short term.

India evaluates F-35: Geopolitical implications

Rear Admiral Michael L. Baker noted that India is contemplating the acquisition of the F-35, which, if completed, would mark a significant shift in the geopolitical weapons landscape. India has traditionally relied on Russia for its military equipment, a relationship that dates back to the Soviet era.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 tested this alliance, as India chose not to join the international condemnations against Russia. However, delays in Russian shipments to India, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, have led New Delhi to reconsider its military suppliers.

In this context of regional tension, India’s urgency to strengthen its defense is palpable, and the United States emerges as a candidate willing to replace Russia as its main military supplier.

Potential F-35 deal: Indo-American Alliance

In the scenario that Washington chose to offer the F-35 to New Delhi, this move would not mark the beginning of aerospace transactions between both nations. The Indian Air Force already operates US-made aircraft, such as the P-8 Poseidon and the AH-64 Apache, exemplary of the advanced technology and operational capabilities that the United States can bring to Indian aviation security.

Is India Ready for the F-35?
P-8 Poseidon

Lockheed Martin, a giant in the aerospace industry, has been actively promoting the F-21, an advanced variant of the F-16 designed specifically to meet India’s operational demands. This approach underscores the company’s interest in securing a significant contract with the Indian government, not only with the F-35 offering but also with other aeronautical solutions tailored to its specific needs.

The strategic value of strengthening ties with India is widely recognized, positioning it as an effective counterweight to China’s growing influence in the regional and international arena.

This alliance would not only be a milestone in US-India military cooperation but would also redefine the balance of power in Asia, offering New Delhi unprecedented air capabilities to secure its sovereignty and status as an emerging regional power.