Washington is prepared to offer India its latest F-35 Lightning II stealth combat aircraft, otherwise known as the Joint Strike Fighter, according to India’s IANS news agency, after U.S. companies lost a tender earlier this year to sell 126 fighter aircraft to Delhi.
If India is interested in the JSF, the United States is prepared to supply information about the aircraft as part of the sales process, according to a Pentagon report on cooperation with India presented to Congress.
“If India shows interest in the JSF, the USA would be prepared to provide information about it, including its technical characteristics, and other information to support India’s request,” the agency said quoting the report.
The F-35 is currently still being tested, but low-rate initial production is already underway, with full-rate production due to begin around 2016, according to Aviation Week magazine. The United States alone wants to buy almost 2,500 F-35s.
India is currently involved in another procurement program for a Russian-built stealth design, the Sukhoi T-50, also known as PAK-FA. Two T-50 prototypes are flying on test in Moscow, while a third is close to completion at the assembly line in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Series production is due to start around 2014-15, with a derivative of the design built in India due to enter service with the Indian Air Force around 2020.
Indian press reports claim the United States is willing to offer the JSF as an alternative to the T-50.
Developed by the U.S. Lockheed Martin group, the F-35 is a multirole stealth design. The aircraft will replace thousands of F-16s, A-10s and other aircraft in the air forces of the United States, Britain and many other NATO allies.
Earlier this year, American companies were dropped by India from a tender competition to supply 126 light fighter aircraft. Russia’s MiG-35 fighter and the Swedish SAAB Gripen were also dropped. Only the Eurofighter Typhoon and France’s Rafale remain in the competition.
Indian military sources quoted by the local press said only the Typhoon and Rafale met the technical requirements of the Indian Air Force, which had been demonstrated in extensive flight trials by all the participating aircraft in India.