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SOURCE: SATYAJEET KUMAR/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

Recently, Lot 14 of, F-35A has been contracted at a flyaway cost of $77.9M which was a 12.8% further drop from what was paid at Lot 12, that’s greater than a 70% unit cost reduction since Lot 1. Which means for every 2 Dassault Rafale India will procure in the future it could have procured 3 F-35A at the same flyaway cost even though F-35A has not been an offer to India even though India is the only country in the newly formed military alliance “Quad” which won’t be operating F-35A in its fleet.

U.S Administration is still peddling its legacy F-21 (F-16V), F-15EX, and F-18E/F fighter jets to India that will continue to make Dassault Rafale an attractive offer for India even though it has been a costly affair for India and further orders can impact its military modernization plans due to the hefty bill it could come with if India goes ahead and places an order for 114 jets more.

Indian Air force (IAF) has not shown any interest in the procurement of F-35A and instead, has backed homegrown AMCA 5.5th Generation fighter program which will only materialize 15 years down the line when advanced countries could have started fielding 6th Generation fighter jet both manned and unmanned which could put IAF behind the technology curve.

Shortsigness of IAF and reluctance of the U.S Administration has ensured that India’s plans to keep an Aerial technological edge in the region with Pakistan and China will never be materialized due to high-cost factors and there are fair chances that Pakistan might get hands-on Chinese 5th generation fighter jets much earlier than India while china might have fielded 6th generation fighter jets in the region.

F-35MKI? 

Customizable F-35A with ability to integrate Indian weapons system if offered with License build agreement in India will make F-35 much attractive to the Indian administration if the Government of India doesn’t press for complete Transfer of Technology (ToT) for the program which could also help India prepare it own local expertise in anticipation of AMCA fighter jets in mid-2030. 

Indian manufacturers in F-35A for key parts? 

Turkish defense contractors were supplying key components including the fighter jets center fuselage and 139 parts of the engine propulsion system before they were kicked out of the program by the U.S administration which could be replaced by Indian manufacturers if License production of F-35A comes to India which will prepare supply line for other fighter jet programs like TEDBF and AMCA and create a workforce which is specialized in component manufacturing of aerospace structures. 

S-400 Deal breaker ?

Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 system from Russia was one of the reasons why Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program and since S-400 also has been procured by India, it could come as a great hurdle for India to procure the F-35 unless India gives some assurance of not sharing bases and installation facilities near where S-400 systems are deployed and not provide radar tracking data of S-400 system to the Russian which could compromise the F-35 Stealth features and make it easier for the Russians to track and monitor them.

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