India not interested in US F-35 JSF offer yet

India is not keen enough to  join the US-led Joint strike fighter (JSF) programme or to buy the F-35 Lightning-II fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). The other fighter aircrafts that are the contenders for the $10.4 billion MMRCA competition include Eurofighter Typhoon, Swedish Gripen (Saab), French Rafale (Dassault) and Russian MiG-35 (United Aircraft Corporation). “We cannot have two types of FGFA. We have already launched preliminary work for our FGFA after inking the $295 million preliminary design contract (PDC) with Russia last month,” said a top defence ministry official on Friday.

A top Pentagon official had stated earlier that  US was open to Indian participation in its JSF project. These comments came during a function where India was pitched to select either the American F/A-18 `Super Hornet’ (Boeing) or F-16 ‘Falcon’ (Lockheed Martin) over their European rivals in the ongoing MMRCA competition. The MMRCA project involves the purchase of 126 fighter planes under which 18 jets will be bought off-the-shelf and another 108 will be manufactured in India under transfer of technology.

The IAF  in the coming years will have a strength of  270 Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted from Russia for around $12 billion, the 126 MMRCA fighter aircraft’s  and 120 indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, apart from the  upgraded MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s. India is also looking forward to develop the FGFA along with Russia which would incorporate advanced stealth technology. A senior Russian official has stated ” Our FGFA will be cheaper than the F-35. Moreover, the intellectual property rights of the FGFA will equally and jointly vest on both India and Russia, with full access to the source code and the like”.

The Indian FGFA will be based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA,but will be built according to IAF’s specifications. IAF, for instance, is also keen on a twin-seater version of the FGFA. In fact , IAF recently finalized the technical requirements for its FGFA, which will have long-range strike and high-endurance air defence capabilities. The FGFA will be a swing-role fighter, with very advanced avionics, stealth to increase survivability, enhanced lethality, 360 degree situational awareness, smart weapons, data-links, and high-end mission computers. While fourth-generation fighters typically revolve around multi-role capabilities, FGFA takes it forward by incorporating stealth technology, composite materials, super cruise, thrust-vectoring and integrated avionics as well.

India would be hoping to induct each of the 250-300 FGFA  from 2020 onwards that will cost around $100 million each. In all, India will spend  $35 billion over the next two decades in its biggest-ever defence project till now.

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  • Another Guest (from Australia)

    I personally reckon India should never join the F-35 program.

    The F-35 Lightning II was defined during the mid 1990s to have “affordable” aerodynamic performance, stealth performance, sensor capabilities and weapons loads to be “affordably” effective against the most common threat systems of that era past – legacy Soviet Cold War era weapons. The F-35 will be ineffective against the current generation of advanced Russian and Chinese systems, detailed below; In any combat engagements between the F-35 and such threat systems, most or all F-35 aircraft will be rapidly lost to enemy fire.

    The limitations in the F-35 design cannot be fixed by upgrades or modifications as they are inherent in the basic F-35 design. Even if the F-35 were to meet its mediocre performance specifications or as-marketed expectations, it would not be viable in combat against modern Russian and Chinese built threat systems.

    In essence, the unethical Thana Marketing strategy used to sell the JSF, along with the acquisition malpractice of concurrency in not only development, production and testing but the actual designs of the JSF variants, themselves, have resulted in the JSF marketeers writing cheques that the aircraft designs and JSF program cannot honour. Lockheed Martin is a tremendously effective marketing organisation and they acquire all kinds of political influence both through the route of politics of the country, contributing to parties, through retired officers, and through their own marketing organisation which is extremely effective. It is an amazingly good marketing organisation backed by a company that doesn’t build very good aeroplanes.

    Its blue-sky thana marketing strategy which is basically designed to enable Lockheed Martin to rape any nation’s plundering taxpayers money in the western world for the next 40 to 50 years.

    Every F-35 a country buys from Lockheed Martin damages its defence, here is the link.

    I also doubt to see new price ever coming down to $95M for the F-35A.

    The actual F-35 unit costs are today multiples of what Lockheed Martin, The Pentagon, USAF says they will be. If you think it is reasonable to expect them to plummet to the $95 million or whatever the price Lockheed glibly promises (thanks to the ubiquitous “learning curve” and other manipulations), please consider a somewhat different analysis, also in Time magazine, available here.

    The cost estimates in the NDAA for the cheapest version of the F-35, the Air Force’s F-35A, are the following. (Note these costs as just for production and do not include R&D.)

    The 2014 procurement cost for 19 F-35As will be $2.989 billion. However, we need to add to that the “long lead” money for the 2014 buy that was appropriated in 2013; that was $293 million, making a total of $3.282 billion for 19 aircraft in 2014. The math for unit cost comes to $172.7 million for each aircraft.

    To be fully accurate, however, we should add the additional procurement money authorized for “modification of aircraft” for F-35As for 2014; that means $158 million more, bringing the total unit production cost to $181 million per copy or higher.

    None of that includes the 2014 R&D bill for the F-35A; that was $816 million; calculate that in if anyone wants to find out further costs.

    I guarantee you the F-35 will never be an amazing strike aircraft. Because I have friends, colleagues, acquaintances and some former fighter pilots (from the defence industry) know more about the F-35 that is very incapable of than anyone else? We have nothing but very disappointed for the F-35 and its poor capabilities.

    The F-35 is at best a great national scandal, unproven and at worst the biggest piece of high-tech boondoggle to ever come out of United States of America.

  • Sovereign

    sorry to say but … F-35 is a failure, more than F-117

  • mick

    The F-35 will prove to be a leap in aircraft technology that will significantly change the air battle scenario forever …. we are still on a learning curve about the all the possibilities this plane will provide our pilots in air combat …. and with time this technology will only improve the F-35’s capabilities …. I’m thankful that this plane is on our side of the fence and give the west air superiority.


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