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SOURCE: ARJUN REDDY/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

Japan has confirmed that it will stop using its local F-35 assembly line which is operated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for assembly of F-35 for Japan Air Self-Defense Force due to substantial savings it could incur if there were directly procured from Lockheed Martin instead of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said a latest media report.

Japan has taken the local final assembly and checkout, or FACO, route since 2013 for the final assembly of F-35A for initial orders of the jet, but due to continues fall in the unit cost of F-35A in recent years which is likely to hit below $80 Million per unit after 2020, Japan procured first batch at an average of average $144.2 million per unit and later at $119.7 million each but due to the downward trend of prices from Lockheed Martin due to high volume orders, it was established that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will not be able to match the price and substantially it was decided further 105 F-35s, which will include 42 of the F-35B short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing variant will be priced directly from the vendor.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries developed F-35A faced high costs due to low volume, high-mix production and lack of international competitiveness resulting into higher locally assembled F-35A aircraft, while India’s defense ministry recently confirmed that due to same factors State-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) produced SU-30MKI fighter jets have $22 million higher fly-away cost then Russian produced ones.

India is clearly is not following principles of acquiring high-performance equipment at the most affordable prices policy only to support local industries which results in IAF paying a higher cost for a product which can be procured at lower cost from the original vendor thus help save the force money which can be used for modernization of other jets.

For years argument made by Indian Government has been that Transfer of Technology and local assembly of high tech fighter jets like Su-30s will create local talent and resources that will come handy in development of next-generation indigenous fighter jets in the long term but the high cost of local development of these jets simply does not add up unless India really plans to develop jets in class of Su-30s which is also not true.

HAL might have abilities to locally produce Su-30s locally in India but can it develop a new fighter of the same class due to its previous work and experience of Su-30s and develop a new jet from scratch at affordable cost locally? , Answer might be “No” since HAL has only absorbed technical know how to develop Su-30s in India from Raw materials supplied by Russian firms under technical assistance from Russian engineers but it has can’t do the same locally due to lack of Independent talent pool which can work from scratch without any external help.

If the Indian government really want to develop local aerospace system then Government should stop assembly and import of fighter jets from other countries and start developing local jets. Most of the local program like 5th generation AMCA fighter jet program is yet to take off due to lack of funds due to continues imports or local assembly of jets with high cost resulting into lack of funds for local programs which causes years of delays. if India wants to be a regional superpower and also create an independent aerospace ecosystem in the country then it needs more indigenous aerospace programs which will actually help create a required talent pool in the country in the long term.

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