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After US Senate's order, Lockheed may offer F-35A to India under MRFA tender with local production

Source : Indian Defence Update (IDU)

After US Senates order Lockheed may offer F35A to India under MRFA tender with local production
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The US Senate has identified Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Fourth and Fifth Generation Stealth Fighters as the areas for cooperation with India and the Senate has asked Pentagon to step up its engagement with India on the issues of emerging technologies within 90 days of passage of the Legislation.

Lockheed Martin has offered its F-16 to the Indian Air Force under the MRFA programme but its chances of closing the $20 billion deal for 114 fighters is very slim as French Rafale aircraft is leading the competition.

The latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) proposes that Pentagon will be cleared for offering India top of the line products like the F-35A Fifth Generation Stealth Aircraft.

Boeing's F-15EX is also not favored by the Indian Air Force as it is of the same class as its already operational Russian heavyweight fighter Sukhoi Su-30MKI and The US Government knows that both F-15EX and F-16 are likely to be rejected due to which it is looking to clear the sale of the F-35A with local assembly to India.

The per-unit cost of F-35A have fallen in the last few years due to increase in production and its operating cost will also fall in the same range as F-15 in the next few years.

Now it has to be seen whether the Indian Air Force opt for F-35A’s or not if offered by the US officially, as IAF has already made its commitment towards indigenous AMCA 5th Generation Stealth Fighter for 126 jets, but AMCA will be operational only after 2030, and during this time China may field 2 or 3 5th Generation Stealth jets in its kitty, to face them IAF will require at least one 5th Generation Stealth fighter and F-35A may fit that bill now.

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