Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on Thursday scotched a
longstanding rumour about India’s possible acquisition of American F-35
fighter jets, as he told a foreign policy conference that Washington had never
offered New Delhi the multirole combat aircraft.
“I am not sure the US will share this technology. What they have offered us is
a lower version of the F series,” Rawat said during a panel discussion at the
ongoing Raisina Dialogue conference.
The panel, titled Future of Conflict: How Will Democracies Respond, also
featured Senior Vice President of Lockheed Martin Tim Cahill, Australia’s
Chief of the Defence Force General Angus Cambell, and General Koji Yamazaki,
the chief of staff, joint staff of the Japan Self-Defence Forces.
Gen Rawat (@HQ_IDS_India): The IAF is still exploring its fighter options. F-35 is state of the art, and I am not sure the US will share this technology. What they have offered us is a lower version in the F-series. #Raisina2021 #RaisinaDialogue
— Raisina Dialogue (@raisinadialogue) April 15, 2021
Rawat’s remarks came in response to statements by Cahill, who touted the
benefits of the American fighter jet to his co-panellists. “The F-35 is now
cheaper than legacy fourth-generation fighters. Nations around the world are
now buying more F-35s, based on the facts, merits, and costs of the system,”
India’s quest for acquiring a fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) hit a
roadblock in 2018 after it reportedly withdrew from a joint India-Russia
venture to manufacture Su-57 jets.
“We have never ever cancelled any agreement with the Indian government. Fifth
generation (fighter aircraft ) project has been delayed by the Indian side,
not by the Russian side,” Victor Kladov, director of international cooperation
and regional policy of Russian state corporation Rostec, was quoted as saying
by Indian news agency Press Trust of India (PTI).
He was speaking on the sidelines of the MAKS International Air Show in Russia
in August 2019.
However, both Russia and India are going ahead with the planned S-400 deal,
confirmed by Russia’s envoy to India Nikolay Kudashev during a press briefing
“The company is very open to requirements from the Narendra Modi government
and Indian Air Force for the development of Advanced Multi-role Combat
Aircraft (AMCA) and upgrading the indigenous Tejas into a superior fighter
jet,” Lockheed Martin’s Vice President of Strategy and Business Development
Vivek Lall was quoted as saying by PTI.
Lall reportedly also said at the time that the company offered to sell F-21
jets to India, which he claimed won’t be sold to any other country should New
Delhi go ahead with the offer.