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SOURCE: IDRW.ORG TEAM

While the global jet market buzzes with the F-35A’s price dipping below $80 million, the Indian Air Force (IAF) remains unmoved. Even with this tempting offer, India maintains its plans for the much pricier Dassault Rafale and its unwavering focus on developing its own 5th-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). This decision, seemingly defying cost logic, reflects the IAF’s strategic priorities and long-term vision.

At over $115 million per unit, the Rafale remains a premium choice. However, it has proven its combat prowess in Syria and Libya, earning the IAF’s trust. Concerns lie in its operating costs, estimated at $16,500 per flying hour, compared to the F-35’s $41,986. Though seemingly higher in acquisition, Rafale’s lower operating costs offer long-term economic viability.

The IAF firmly backs the indigenous AMCA program, aiming to achieve self-reliance in cutting-edge fighter technology. While AMCA promises future operational independence, its projected arrival by mid-2035 leaves a capability gap. Pakistan’s planned induction of Chinese FC-31s by 2028 creates pressure, but the IAF refuses to “panic buy” other 5th gen alternatives.

Despite the alluring price tag, the F-35 holds reservations for the IAF. US export restrictions, past rejections of F-16 and F-18 due to perceived technological limitations, and concerns about over-dependence on American systems raise strategic concerns. Additionally, the F-35’s complex logistics and support infrastructure might not align seamlessly with the IAF’s existing setup.

The IAF’s decision reflects a calculated gamble. It prioritizes long-term self-reliance with AMCA, even with temporary vulnerability due to Pakistan’s potential acquisition. Rafale’s proven capabilities and lower operating costs offer a bridge while AMCA takes flight. While the F-35’s price drop is tempting, strategic concerns and a commitment to indigenous development outweigh the immediate allure.

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