Will US surprise with F-35 debut at Aero India? | India News – Times of India


BENGALURU: While advanced fighter jets F16 Vipers and F/A 18 Super Hornets from the US have already arrived in Bengaluru for Aero India 2023, top US officials on Sunday hinted at a possible debut of the F-35 fighter, pegged as the world’s most advanced fighter.
A US delegation, led by US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires ambassador Elizabeth Jones addressed the media ahead of Aero India, but officials didn’t give a confirmation about the F-35 debut.
Rear Admiral Michael L Baker, senior defence official and defence attaché to India said: “Two F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft — the most battle-tested carrier strike fighter — and two F-16 Vipers are already at Yelahanka. With regard to F-35, if it were to come to this airshow, it would be for demonstrating the strength and closeness of India-US partnership and not because there’s a possibility of acquisition. This would be to bring the most advanced fighter in the world to India’s premier airshow and support our partner in a strategic way.”
Air-launched UAV
Asked if the US was offering the F-35 to India, Baker said discussions on the India side were still very nascent and it would be premature to discuss details. On whether US was open to selling F-35s to India, he explained: “There has been no ask or high-level discussion. From what I can tell, India is focussed on building its own future fighters…”
Speaking specifically about the joint development of the air-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (ALUAV) under the joint working group air system part of the defence technology and trade initiative (DTTI) between the two countries, officials said there was some progress with the ALUAV, the project arrangement for which was signed last year.
Major General Julian C Cheater, assistant deputy under secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, said: “We are expecting we would conduct flight testing as early as the fall of 2023- that will occur at a range in northern India as well as one in the US. We will develop sensors on the package and expect that particular UAV would be most likely to be launched from the C130-J aircraft.”
Baker also said the US was looking to offer co-production of some more advanced manufacturing capabilities that may not exist in India yet.
Cheater said: “India is currently providing critical aid and supplies as part of Operation Dost — relief efforts in Türkey and Syria — to do which it used five C17s and C-130Js. India has the largest C17 fleet outside of the US.”
He added that there’s also increasing emphasis on starting space co-operation, especially in the areas of space situational awareness.
Indo-Russia relationship
Asked if Russia being India’s strong ally unsettles the US, Jones said: “That’s a separate question in terms of the unjust war that Russia has undertaken against Ukraine. That does not mean conversations here are focussed on that. They are focussed on the partnership we have with India and would like to build to support very important global goals of free area, going after issues that affect our people, that involve commerce, climate change, trade, health pandemic and issues that we hear about everyday press reports that effect people’s everyday lives.
Free and open Indo-Pacific
While talking about a free and open Indo-Pacific, principal deputy assistant secretary of defence for Indo-Pacific security affairs, Jedidiah P Royal, dodged a question on who was the aggressor by not naming China. “We’re not here at Aero India to dwell on that. We’re here to discuss opportunities in the US-India defence partnership. Opportunities are rich and we’re going to dig into that. I don’t want to get into a discussion on the specific elements of the threat environment as it exists right now,” he said.

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