SOURCE: AARAV SHARMA/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
India has become the third Asian country after Japan and South Korea to get the Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 (STA-1) status after the U.S. issued a federal notification which now describes India as a Major Defence Partner and recognizes India cleared for export of items known for their Dual usage.
STA-1 will not only upgrades India as Close key Allie of the United States but also ensures that India can now procure Top tier weapons systems like Armed Drones and fighter jets like F-35 without going through export control regimes.
‘Major Defence Partner’ also ensures the United States and India can now actually start Joint ventures in development of Next Generation weapons which were proposed a few years back by Washington. Japan and South Korea who are only other Two Asian countries which have STA-1 status operate F-35 fighter aircraft and Japan is the only third country after US and Italy which assembles F-35 outside Lockheed Martin Plant.
Fly away cost, of F-35A (Airforce Variant) has been under free fall under Trump Presidency and with Lockheed Martin scheduled to nearly triple annual production to more than 160 jets by 2023, Prices are likely to hit $80 million unit cost post-2020 as per calculations made by Lockheed Martin which makes it considerably cheaper to own than many 4.5 Generation fighters which are been offered to India under new tender for 110 fighter aircraft.
While the Indian government or the Indian Air Force has not shown any interest in procurement of F-35 fighter aircraft but the fallout of FGFA deal with Russia and likely delays in the finalization of new fighter aircraft deal and the slow development process of country’s own Stealth program might allow F-35 a backdoor entry.