F-35 Lightning II:- Does India Really Want the American-Built Fighter Jet

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.

The F-35 Lightning II is a 5th Generation fighter, combining advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment  with the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history. The F-35’s advanced stealth allows pilots to penetrate areas without being detected by radars that legacy fighters cannot evade.

If we take the impossibility aside that F-35 can’t be delivered because numerous reasons to India, then still F-35 is not an option for India.


Look, the F-35 is a pretty good fighter jet, it doesn’t matter how much we all criticize it, a plane that has a 20 + years of research and development behind and despite the fact that it still can’t perform 60 % of the expectations put on it, it will evolve with time and replace most of the 4th generation fighters in the coming decade in numerous airforces.

But you have to keep it mind that defence purchases are not made based on ‘’how pretty or beautiful or outbreaking’’ a plane is, instead every single airforce calculates it’s own needs and threat perceptions, defence budgets.

Is it possible that India can do this with the F-35?

Neither this plane is build for that purpose, nor you can order with a tight budget of India 1,000 + F-35s in the coming years.

The Indian airforce is building it’s structure about to guard the borders via air on such a large mass and second, being able to protect these borders with enough fighter jets against the incoming enemy fighters.

For what the F-35 is build?

Obviously it’s advertised from the developer and the US establishment as a fighter jet which can do almost everything, the mulit-role fighter jet of the future, but in fact, most of these capabilities were lost with the time of development for one single important purpose: deep strike capability.

At the end of the day, even when the US has partnered with so many nations for the joint production of these planes, it has mostly thought about his own threat concepts while building the F-35.

Means, since the 80s, the whole obsession of the US was to build weapons which are not visible (stealth) and could penetrate far into the enemy territory and conduct deep strikes.

Well, the US is an offensive force if we like it or not, we can understand their concern, but since when India and most of the other buyers of F-35s are offensive forces?

Where India wants to penetrate in and do some strategic deep strikes?

Pakistan? It don’t need for that a F-35, the inventory of the Indian airforce is enough to fight along the border with the Pakistani airforce and if a strike is needed, it has enough missiles in the inventory to send against Pakistani installations without to lose many fighter jets in an all or nothing war. Moreover, the Rafale’s are enough for BVR engagements and Pakistan will also not be able to procure a 5th generation fighter jet for long.

China? Yes, the Chinese have some new developed 5th generation fighter jets, but first, why India should go into a war with China, except some minor issues there are no such huge military tensions at all, second, you want to go into an air fight with an airforce which has hundreds of planes spread over thousands of kilometres and that with only 100, maybe 200 F-35s? Good luck.

India wants to place these fighter jets on an aircraft carrier and send it to thousands of kilometres away for an offensive war against a country and knock their anti-aircraft systems ? Nope, that’s also not the doctrine of the Indian airforce.

What India needs are proper and modern fighter jets who can protect it’s borders and if needed make BVR operations in border engagements and in very rare cases, go into a dogfight against enemy fighter jets who try to violate the Indian airspace.

For that the SU-30s and Rafale’s are more than enough for now. They did not even order the initially planned numbers of Rafale’s, because it was way above the calculations with the price tag.

So, why the hell should India buy F-35s for something which doesn’t exist in it’s doctrine for so much money to protect only 1/10 of the Indian airspace, when this amount of money can be spend to order good 4+ generation fighter jets who will be still around for the next 20 years in many airforces?

Finally, there is one additional issue that bears examination in this debate, and that is how procuring the F-35 will affect the indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project. Because of the similar roles the two aircraft shall be expected to fulfil, there is a distinct possibility that purchasing the F-35 will kill the AMCA for good, with disastrous long-term consequences. Detractors may argue that the AMCA is nowhere close to completion, and may be delayed by years just like the Tejas has been. That may well be the case, but if the AMCA does suffer inordinate delays, India can always place a future order for an F-35 with many of its niggles hopefully sorted out. There is little reason to make that call now, when the AMCA is still a design on paper.

Again, the F-35 is a really good plane, but only for airforces such as USA, Russia or China, or for countries who just want to order some pieces of it for their limited airspace, but not for India.

Conclusion is that the F-35 is not the plane what India needs.




Source:-  Harun Resit aydin Medium

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