By Arun Kumar
Washington: Although the US lost out in the bid to sell India 126 multi-role combat jets, it has offered New Delhi “top-of-the-line technology”, including “the best in the world” Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
“The US F-16 and F-18 competed, but were not down-selected, in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition in April 2011,” the US defense department said in a report to the US Congress on US-India Security Cooperation.
“Despite this setback, we believe US aircraft, such as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), to be the best in the world,” said the Pentagon report prepared in response to a request from the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee on a five-year action plan to strengthen bilateral defense relations.
“Should India indicate interest in the JSF, the United States would be prepared to provide information on the JSF and its requirements (infrastructure, security, etc.) to support India’s future planning.”
India has demonstrated its interest in upgrading its inventory of fighter aircraft, the report said noting “It intends to purchase 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft and is working with Russia on the development of the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA).
The Department of Defense, along with the Departments of State and Commerce, will advocate for US solutions to Indian defense needs, it said. “We recognize that India is also seeking to build its own indigenous defense industry, and is looking for the best technologies to use in its defense sector.
“The United States wants to develop deeper defense industrial cooperation with India, including a range of cooperative research and development activities,” it said asserting, “The United States is committed to providing India with top-of-the-line technology.”
The Department of Defense is continually looking for ways to expand defense cooperation with India, the report said. “We are seeking opportunities for increased science and technology cooperation that may lead to co-development opportunities with India as a partner.”
“The United States has taken many steps in recent years to facilitate science and technology and research and development cooperation with India,” the report said.
“In so doing, we have signaled our unambiguous intent to pursue cooperative opportunities on increasingly sophisticated systems,” it said suggesting, “As our relationship continues to mature, we expect co-development of armaments to become a reality.”
Over the next five years, the United States “will continue to establish itself as a reliable defense supplier to India and look for opportunities to enable further training and exchanges between our militaries as India continues its military modernization,” the report said.
Write to Arun Kumar at email@example.com
The US Pentagon’s offer of information on the US 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.
By Saurabh Joshi