There are “early phases” of discussions for India to purchase the F-35 stealth aircraft made by U.S. defense behemoth Lockheed Martin. This occurred while the United States pressured India not to buy arms from Russia.
According to Rear Admiral Michael L. Baker, the Defense Attaché at the United States embassy in India, New Delhi is still in the “early phases” of determining whether or not to buy the next-generation fighter for its Air Force.
New Delhi is still in the “early phases” of choosing whether to buy the next-generation fighter for its Air Force, according to Rear Admiral Michael L. Baker, the Defense Attaché at the U.S. embassy in India.
“Those talks by India are still very early, so I would say it’s too early to talk about it,” Baker added. He further said the US-India defense partnership is essential to the Indo-Pacific strategy.
Former Indian Air Force Group Captain TP Srivastava told the EurAsian Times, “For Indian needs, the F-35 is unacceptable owing to cost and technological factors.”And he added: “If I was the decision maker and they offered me the F-35 for free, I wouldn’t take it.”
The F-35 is a mighty fighting machine, but it has an almost endless list of flaws, including issues with its stealth liner, ejection seat, excessive barrel vibration, and even susceptibility to lightning strikes.
The former Indian Air Force pilot cited these key issues, stating that the aircraft was completely unsuitable for Indian Air Force requirements.
U.S. aircraft, including the F-35 stealth fighter, F-16s, Super Hornets, and B-1B bombers, participated at the Aero India 2023 airshow from February 13-17, 2023.
The United States is expected to be represented by the largest delegation in Aero India’s 27-year existence.
Many experts think the F-35’s presence is a ploy by Washington to alienate New Delhi from Russia, its biggest military supplier, and longtime ally.
Specifically, it occurs when Boeing and the French company Dassault Aviation are involved in a contest to supply fighters to the second aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy.
The contract is for the delivery of 114 multi-role aircraft to the Indian Air Force, and Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35 stealth fighter, is competing for the business. It’s possible that India will purchase the F-21, a variant of the F-16 that was developed specifically for the country and debuted at the 2019 Aero India show.
Nitin J Ticku, a defense specialist and managing editor at EurAsian Times, believes a combined offer of Lockheed Martin F-21 and F-35 stealth fighters could be sumptuous bait to lure India away from Russia. You have to remember that the Indian fighter jet contract is worth approximately a whopping $20 billion, and I’m pretty sure the U.S. would try to grab the lucrative contract.
The United States has authorized arms sales to India for more than $6 billion in recent years. These deliveries include transport planes, helicopters such as the Apache, Chinook, and MH-60, missiles, air defense systems, naval guns, and P-8I Poseidon surveillance planes.
Furthermore, India aims to increase domestic production of defense equipment in collaboration with international defense companies to meet domestic demand and export advanced weapons platforms.
An attempt to alienate India from Russia?
With border tension rising with China and a longstanding rivalry with Pakistan, India has been trying to upgrade its antiquated fleet of fighter jets to increase its air power.
Most of the Indian military hardware, including that used by the army, Navy, and air forces, is Russian. India, the only key U.S. ally that did not expressly denounce Russia or support sanctions against it when it invaded Ukraine last year, has defied pressure from its Western partners to distance itself from Moscow.
However, Delhi is reportedly concerned about Russian military supply disruptions caused by the Ukraine conflict, especially as tensions with China and Pakistan are rising.
Jedidiah P. Royal, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs, responded to a question about India’s shift towards self-reliance under the flagship “Atmanirbhar Bharat” effort, stating that this presents a “significant opportunity” for the United States to partner more with India.
Similarly, Maj. Gen. Julian C. Cheater, U.S. Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Affairs, recently stated that Aero India was the perfect venue to showcase the most advanced, capable, lethal, and interoperable weapon systems. That the United States can offer.
In general, the heavy U.S. presence at the event was a covert attempt to pique Indian interest.