T he US Pentagon’s offer of information on the fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) to India in a report made to the country’s Senate Armed Services Committee comes curiously on the eve of the opening of the commercial bids of the two surviving aircraft companies in the Indian Air Force (IAF) competition for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
This ‘offer’ is not entirely unexpected. According to a Bloomberg report last June, these submissions come as a result of the study commissioned by the Senate committee, asking the Department of Defense to look into the “desirability and feasibility” of the sale of the JSF to India.
Nor is the offer entirely novel. The US government and Lockheed Martin have already briefed India on the aircraft, as part of a response to a Request For Information (RFI) for carrier borne fighters floated by the Indian Navy. The idea of India buying into the JSF program was turned down by former Indian Defense Secretary and current Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Pradeep Kumar.
Senators Joe Lieberman and John Cornyn of the Senate committee mandated the commissioning of this Pentagon report. While Lieberman represents the state of Connecticut, where United Technologies manufactures the engines for the JSF, Cornyn represents Texas, where Lockheed Martin manufactures the aircraft, itself. In fact the company, along with JSF partner BAE Systems, is also one of his top political donors.
BAE Systems also partners EADS and two other companies in the Eurofighter consortium. EADS owns 46 percent of both the Eurofighter as well as the French Dassault. The commercial bids of the two surviving competitors, Eurofighter and Dassault’s Rafale are expected to be opened on Friday.