The Indian Air Force (IAF) is considering the possibility of an order for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, according to sources in the Ministry of Defence.
With deliberations at an early stage, it is understood the IAF will be writing to ask for more information on the fifth generation fighter.
India has been involved with the development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) – a version of the Russian PAK-FA/Sukhoi-57 fighter, but the IAF has lately been concerned about the uncertain prospects of the program.
The IAF has also been contemplating a new contest for a single engine fighter between the Saab Gripen and the Lockheed Martin F-16 under the provisions for strategic partnerships incorporated in Chapter 07 of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). However, no Request For Information (RFI) has been forthcoming so far. StratPost also understands there is new thinking on this, with the possibility that the Government of India might forego a tender process in favour of a direct, government-to-government order for an aircraft.
Although the F-16 and the Gripen have been the favourites for the IAF, not least because of their Make in India proposal to set up assembly lines for the aircraft in India, it remains undecided if this new move is intended to replace or supplement plans for either a Make in India fighter aircraft assembly line in India or the FGFA program.
At any rate, there will be several issues to resolve before a conversation can take place on an Indian F-35 order.
Read the first part of our analysis that examines whether the time is right for the two countries to finally have a discussion on a potential Indian order of the F-35 fifth generation fighter aircraft: Will the U.S. & India finally talk about the F-35?
Read a breakdown of the issues that need to be resolved for the two countries to have discussions on a potential Indian fleet of F-35 aircraft, in the concluding part of our analysis: Enabling Indo-U.S. dialogue on the F-35