US attempting to bring India into the F-35 foldNovember 15, 2011
India is preparing a major new purchase of fighter aircraft, and has spent years evaluating six major contenders. Recently, the field was narrowed to two – the French Rafaele and the Eurofighter Typhoon. In the original competition, the US fielded two different competitors – the F-16 and the F-18 (the other early contenders were Saab’s Gripen and Russia’s Mig-29). However, the US is apparently not entirely out of the competition just yet. The US is trying to interest India in the new F-35, our second most advanced fighter. The F-35 was not under initial consideration because it’s cost puts it outside the parameters of India’s initial goal, and also it was not thought that it would be available in the time frame that India prefers. However, the US may be willing to subsidize the price and to sweeten the deal by developing and building some of the components in joint ventures with Indian contractors.
The F-35 would certainly be the most capable of all the contenders, and might be uniquely configured for India’s needs because of its short and vertical take off capabilities (although the S-VTOL versions will not be available for several more years).
As The Diplomat points out, this is more than a simple aircraft supply bid. India will be a key player in the geopolitics of the 21st century, and the US is keen to foster a deep military relationship there. To contain any threat of an aggressive China, the US needs to organize the nations of the Asian periphery, of which India is key. For that reason, the F-35 is also being offered to Japan. India and Japan would join longtime US allies Australia, has been a participant in the program from the beginning, and Singapore, which has been participating since 2003.