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SOURCE: AMIT PANDEY/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

Lockheed Martin with its F-16V and Boeing with its F-18 Super Hornet Block III are currently marketing their aircraft as low-observable combat jets so that it can seal a deal for 110 fighter jets for the Indian air force from India. Company representatives of both the companies have been repeatedly marketing so-called stealth features of their jets in Indian media lately.

Lockheed Martin F-16Vs which for India it will be called as F-17 Block 70 as closest thing to a true stealth fighter jet like F-35. According to Lockheed Martin officials, F-16V comes with Northrop Grumman’s advanced APG-83 AESA radar provides greater situational awareness and provides pilots with unprecedented target area detail and digital map displays that can be tailored with slew and zoom features.

The APG-83 according to them provides F-16s with 5th Generation fighter radar capabilities by leveraging hardware and software commonality with F-22 and F-35 AESA radars. Block 70 software further enhances capabilities through an advanced data link, precision GPS navigation, and Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System.

Key marketing tool here by Lockheed Martin is 5th generation avionics of F-35 is what will give India performance edge over rivals but nowhere there is any mention if the F-16 airframe is getting any reduction in its Radar Cross-Section to lower its own signature first nor any data suggesting such claim. for a Very low-observable aircraft (5th Generation ) or low-observable aircraft (4th Gen aircraft with minor stealth airframe improvements ) reducing its own signature is very important for legacy aircraft to remain technologically modern for next 40 years.

F-18 Super Hornet Block III post-2020 will be getting minor upgrades to its stealthiness and Boeing claims Block III will be a little bit stealthier, pack a more powerful punch, fly with increased stamina and carry a more robust communication and targeting systems. Block III Super Hornets will have conformal fuel tanks installed behind the cockpit on the jet’s shoulders which will result into lower aircraft’s radar signatures which is nothing path breaking when it comes to low-observable aircraft.

Boeing is also trying to break into India’s Stealth AMCA fighter Program and also replied to a tender which was floated by ADA to Public and Private sector companies who will be interested in the development of AMCA Technological demonstrators and later prototypes. Boeing also has signed a partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and Mahindra Defense Systems to manufacture Block III Super Hornets in India if its wins Indian tender and has also offered to manufacture AMCA TDs and Prototypes from the same facilities.

Boeing has been trying to position its self-has a company which is ready to work with India not only to produce its own jets locally in India but also collaborate with India in the local homegrown program for stealth aircraft even though their involvements will be limited as they will not provide any consultation in design definition phase nor any technology for the program, but rather is doing it to keep its local workforce engaged with AMCA Program from its facilities in turning to profit out of India.

Both companies pretty much are not offering any additional capabilities nor any out of the box solutions which will improve India’s aerial capabilities tremendously. India also shouldn’t ignore the fact that both F-16 and F-18 in its previous avatars were tested rigorously back in India and the United States and their performance was nowhere close to more modern Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter. Lockheed Martin wants to continue to milk a dead cow called F-16 even when it is nearing its production circle while Boeing is desperate to keep its fighter division open due to shirking orders for its F-18 from Navy and no future fighter aircraft projects in hand.

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