The full case for scrapping the MMRCA tender and buying the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 6 November 2010

The full case for scrapping the MMRCA tender and buying the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

By Ajai Shukla

I thought that airing my view about the folly of buying a 4th-Gen fighter at this point in time would stir up a debate and it has. Many good responses have been posted on Broadsword, along with some not-so-relevant ones. And, of course, there is the usual bunch of whiners striking up the to-be-expected chorus of, “you’ve been bribed by Lockheed Martin”.

I’m beginning to believe the stinging observation by many foreigners that Indians don’t know how to argue at an intellectual plane. If we disagree with an argument, we try to discredit, not disprove.

Although I delete some posts during vetting (but only on the grounds of verbosity, irrelevance, or communalism/racism/xenophobia) I never remove the “you’ve been bribed” allegations. At some stage, I’ll be able to go back and count them and quantify exactly how whiney Indian bloggers are.

Fortunately, there are plenty of good posts, which attempt to contradict my arguments robustly without getting into name-calling. To acknowledge them, here is my full-length response, laying out the full case for the F-35 and rebutting the many misconceptions around that fighter’s role, ability, cost, availability, etc.

Operational necessity: air supremacy, or ground strike?

What are India’s foreseeable security threats and how must the IAF equip and train itself to face them? While Pakistan remains a lingering hangover, especially in its embrace of cross-border terrorism, it is diminishing as a full-blown military threat to India. The IAF’s most likely missions against Pakistan centre on air-to-ground strikes: punitive raids against terrorist camps or ISI locations, perhaps in retaliation for yet another terrorist outrage; or pre-emptive strikes against Pakistani ballistic missiles when a nuclear launch against India seems imminent.

A devastating ground strike capability is also primary for contingencies on the China border. With Beijing relentlessly developing roads and railways to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the People’s Liberation Army has already built, and is increasing, the ability to amass an invading force faster than the Indian Army can rush in troops to defend the threatened area. When an attack is imminent, or some Indian territory has already been occupied, New Delhi’s immediate response would inevitably centre on air strikes against PLA forward troops and the routes on which their logistics --- ammunition, fuel, food, water and medical care --- depend. In the 1962 debacle one of New Delhi’s most unforgivable, and inexplicable, blunders was to abjure the use of air power. This time around, as evident from the rapid creation of IAF infrastructure along the China border, India’s first response will be with air strikes.

Given these requirements, it is evident that the IAF needs a highly developed ground strike capability. But the fighter pilots that dominate the pinnacle of the IAF (and every other air force) have an overriding fascination for “air supremacy fighters”. The IAF has traditionally focused less on enemy ground troops and more on that fighter-jock ambition, shooting down enemy fighters in air-to-air duels. The Indian Army has long remonstrated with the IAF over the latter’s airy neglect (pun unintentional) of the crucial ground war. There needs to be a clear realisation that India’s wars --- in an environment where territorial integrity is a fundamental concern --- will be won and lost on the ground. For that reason, the IAF must be held to a ground strike capability.

The Su-30MKI for ground strikes?

For those who try to equate the ground attack capability of the Su-30MKI with that of the F-35, remember: ground attack capability is not a function merely of bomb-load; it is all about the ability to deliver high explosive ACCURATELY without sustaining unacceptable casualties to our strike force. That involves flying through a hostile EW and radar environment and reaching the target area without being detected or being detected too late; fighting one’s way to the target if needed; locating and identifying the target; delivering a weapons load accurately; and then fighting one’s way back to base. In fulfilling this comprehensive mission profile, the F-35 will be the granddaddy of any living fighter, including our Sukhois.

Those who argue that the F-35 can only carry a small bomb load are comparing chalk with cheese: equating a full external profile on other aircraft with an “internal only” profile on the F-35. While there are missions that the F-35 might be required to fly with only internal bomb-loads --- e.g. pre-emptive strikes on radar locations, airbases, headquarters, etc… or to take out nuclear missile sites --- The F-35 will, for the most part, support ground troops with full internal and external bomb loads, even at the cost of some of its stealth. The aircraft will remain a pilot’s dream in difficult strike missions like high-accuracy strikes on mountain-top targets 1000 kilometres away: the F-35 delivers more anti-surface weaponry, with higher accuracy, than any comparable fighter. And its 360-degree cockpit awareness, with total avionics integration and sensor fusion, allows a single pilot to fly and function as weapons systems officer.

The F-35’s range, achieved with internal fuel (rather than external fuel tanks that displace bombs), is more than adequate for the IAF, whose airbases in Assam are just 100-200 kilometres from the Sino-Indian border. With 8 tonnes of weaponry (mix-and-match, according to the mission) carried on six external and four internal pylons, the F-35 packs more punch than any of its Gen-4 rivals, including the brutish Su-30MKI, a bigger, heavier, easily detected aircraft.

MMRCA advocates are being simplistic (dishonest, some would argue!) in presenting the ground strike bomb-loads of Gen-4 fighters. Those PR-brochure figures assume that every external pylon carries a bomb. But actually, in combat missions, when there is an operational need for sensors and targeting pods; electronic warfare equipment, etc, the PR-brochure bomb load is irrelevant because some of those pylons are no longer available! Since the F-35’s sensors and targeting devices and fuel load are internal to the aircraft, external pylons are used (surprise, surprise!) for carrying high explosive, not targeting pods, electronic countermeasure pods, and even flare and chaff dispensers, like Gen-4 fighters.

On a mission, the F-35 uses satellite-based GPS, and will be equipped with SATCOM using the new UHF system called MUOS. SATCOM will be employed when MUOS has an adequate number of systems in orbit. Among the F-35's communications systems is the Multi-Function Advanced Datalink, a high-bandwidth/low-probability-of-intercept system that is now under consideration for retrofit on the two other existing stealth aircraft, B-2 and F-22. F-35 also uses Link-16, Digital Battlefield Communications and Variable Message Format.

Why buy a “bomb truck”, when we can get a “real fighter” that also bombs?

As argued above, we don’t want a “real fighter that also bombs”. We have lots and lots of air supremacy fighters and more --- LCA, FGFA --- on the way. What we need is a ground strike fighter.

MMRCA vendors (including, ironically, Lockheed Martin in selling the F-16 Super Viper!) argue that their “multi-role” MMRCA, are designed and equipped to effectively strike enemy ground forces. Strike they certainly can, but nowhere as devastatingly as the F-35, which is designed ground-up for this role. In cricket, even the best all-rounder does not both bat and bowl at the highest level… a specialist bowler is invariably more penetrating and a specialist batsman better equipped. In athletics, decathletes hurl the discus, throw the javelin, and also sprint 100 metres. No decathletes, however, achieve the highest standards in every one of these events simultaneously.

It is the same with “multi-role” fighters, most of which are designed primarily as air supremacy fighters, with ground attack thrown in for saleability. Take the Eurofighter Typhoon, designed initially as an air defence fighter, and will only obtain a ground attack capability in Tranche 3. A top RAF officer told me yesterday that the Tranch 3 Eurofighters would only start delivery two years from now… and that the AESA radar would be ready two years after that, i.e. at the end of 2014. But it is already being stated that the Eurofighter has a formidable ground attack capability! Given that nobody has any idea how effective the Eurofighter will be in the ground strike role, I can hardly bring myself to buy the argument that it will be anywhere close to the F-35…. which is custom-designed as a strike fighter.

The Indian Army has not forgotten the IAF’s irrelevance during the Kargil conflict. When IAF fighters should have been supporting assaulting infantry by hammering Pakistani positions with air strikes, those troops eventually had to make do only with fire support from their own artillery. Meanwhile, the IAF was searching for a way to equip its Mirage-2000s (an MMRCA!) to deliver bombs accurately onto mountaintops. That is what a world-class, customised, strike fighter like the F-35 is designed and built to do. We do not want the IAF’s pathetic Kargil saga to be replayed some day on the Sino-Indian border.

Can the F-35 survive a hostile air-to-air environment?

MMRCA contenders in New Delhi have been assiduously putting out the word that the F-35, with its orientation towards its strike role, is poorly equipped to fend off enemy fighters that would intercept it before it could reach its target. While I do not subscribe to the “multi-role” school of thought, the facts appear to indicate that the F-35 can hold its own in air-to-air combat as well. Even though air-to-air combat is a secondary role for the F-35, US Air Force simulations (and remember, that is the most demanding of customers) have concluded that the F-35 is at least 6 times better in aerial combat than even advanced fourth-generation fighters. While the Gen-4 fighters handle well in “air show” configuration --- i.e. without weapons and topped up fuel --- comparative studies in combat configuration have proven that the F-35 outperforms all advanced Gen-4 aircraft in top end speed, loiter, subsonic acceleration and radius, besting them comfortably in aerial combat at shorter and long ranges.

According to Lockheed Martin’s written response to my questions:

  • U.S. Air Force combat-modelling results show that the F-35 is conservatively more than six times better in air-to-air capability than its nearest competitor.
  • In combat configuration, the F-35 outperforms all advanced fourth-generation aircraft in top end speed, loiter, subsonic acceleration and radius.
  • F-35 is the only international fighter with total avionics integration and sensor fusion, providing unprecedented spherical situational awareness to the pilot.
  • F-35 is comparable to, or better than, the best fourth generation fighters in aerodynamic performance in all within-visual-range categories.
  • The F-35 outperforms all fourth-generation aircraft in both the within-visual-range and beyond-visual-range air-to-air combat arenas.

It is also disinformation that the F-35 cannot carry a “long-range” air-to-air missile in its bay. Even though the F-35 has no requirement for such a missile, Lockheed Martin tells me that internal studies have confirmed that the F-35 could deploy such missiles if required. Said a senior Lockheed Martin executive over email, “We have been working with weapon suppliers to identify both aircraft and weapon modifications that would optimize the physical fit within the weapons bays. To date we have determined that most long range missile concepts could fit on both internal and external weapon stations.”

Incidentally, as of today, The F-35A (CTOL) and F-35B (STOVL) variants can each carry a total of 14 air-to-air missiles: 4 AMRAAMs internally, 8 AMRAAMs externally and two AIM-9s externally. The F-35C (CV) variant can carry a total of 12 air-to-air missiles: 4 AMRAAMs internally, 6 AMRAAMs externally and two AIM-9s externally.

Why another Gen-5 fighter, besides the FGFA?

Many argue that we don’t need the expensive 5th Generation F-35, when we will soon have the 5th Generation FGFA? In fact the F-35 would be the perfect complement to the FGFA. In any future war, the FGFA --- which must be purpose-built as an air dominance fighter, not a multi-role “all-rounder” --- would work alongside the F-35 in creating a favourable air situation. While the F-35 would strike enemy air bases and radar installations, the FGFA would go for the enemy’s aircraft. Air supremacy obtained, or even without that, the F-35 would strike enemy ground forces and fly interdiction missions against his combat logistics.

This is not a revolutionary new doctrine. The US Air Force F-22 Raptors gain command of the air; and F-35s will be used to pulverise the enemy’s army, thereby winning the war.

Similarly, the introduction of two Gen-5 fighters into the IAF: the world’s premier air dominance fighter, the FGFA, supporting the world’s most lethal ground strike aircraft, the F-35, would give the IAF an unbeatable edge into the mid-twenty-first century.

F-35 development time overruns… is that relevant to India?

Those who worry about time and cost overruns to the F-35 programme --- and there were, undeniably, overruns --- are grappling with a bunch of facts without placing them in the context of India. Think about it this way: those overruns were irritants for the eight development partner countries, which had put down money and been promised delivery by a certain date. India --- which never put down money, and had no time and cost overruns --- will step onto a programme that is on the doorstep of completion and is, therefore, fully de-risked. The F-35 will start obtaining its IOCs, as many former sceptics now accept, in late 2011 or, latest, 2012. By the way, there are three IOCs to be obtained for the three variants, separately from the US air force, navy and marine corps.

India, whose entry as an F-35 buyer will be a huge boost to the programme, can realistically demand delivery by a certain date during negotiations with Washington. With the development partner countries facing cruel defence budget cuts, there are indications that some are looking for options that would allow them to take delivery slower than originally negotiated. Israel could get its F-35s by 2014-15; India could strongly bargain to start taking delivery soon after that. Remember, there are very few enthusiastic buyers in this depressed global arms bazaar… India is one of them.

Declining squadron numbers

The argument that the MMRCA is an instant fix for India’s declining squadron numbers is the reddest of herrings, given the time frame for induction! The earliest possible date for delivery of the first MMRCA, built entirely abroad, would be 2014… while the F-35 could well become available starting 2015-2017.

The F-35’s later delivery actually suits our strategic circumstances; we should not be rushing the purchase. China is growing fast and is unmistakeably transforming into an assertive power, but it would take another decade before China could realistically contemplate the use of force towards a favourable border settlement. Since that threat would take some time in building, India must prepare for 21st century combat coolly and unhurriedly. It would be self-defeating to hustle ourselves into a hurried buy of 4th Gen fighters in the paranoid apprehension of immediate threat. Today’s insecurity cannot be cited to buy an MMRCA that is unsuitable for our ground strike needs and that will be superseded in air-to-air capability by the FGFA within a decade.

Instead, the IAF should accept a few more years of deficient numbers in order to switch over to a Gen-5 force. I believe that 2017-18 should targeted for obtaining a sizeable number of F-35s, integrating them into the IAF’s network (it will also take that long for the IAF to become a network-centric force!) and training our pilots to use the network-enabled capabilities of the F-35. By that time, the FGFA would also be completing development, rounding off the capabilities of a truly world-class force.

Most countries would bridge such a time gap by an interim purchase of fighter aircraft, but I don’t think India can take out a US $10 billion insurance against a war that can, in an unlikely crisis, be deterred through nuclear posturing.

The death of Indian aerospace industry?

Amongst arguments made against the F-35, the most convoluted one is that Indian aeronautical development programmes like the LCA Mk II and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) will be killed by the procurement of the F-35. As long as India maintains its strategic objective of defence indigenisation, the LCA and the AMCA programmes can continue, alongside joint development programmes with foreign partners, and with procurements like the MMRCA/F-35.

Even if the MoD were to start making hard choices, any threat to an indigenously produced 5th Generation fighter is the FGFA, not the F-35. The F-35 --- a strike aircraft --- is significantly different from the LCA Mk II and the AMCA, which are more akin to the multi-role (and biased towards air defence) FGFA.

In fact, procurements like the F-35, which will strengthen the US-India defence relationship, will facilitate technology inflows that are needed for giving the LCA/AMCA Gen-5 characteristics.

Are we ready to hitch our wagon to the US?

A legitimate question raised by sceptics of my F-35 proposal is: are we are ready to hitch our wagon so fundamentally to the United States? My short answer is: (a) buying the F-35 would not make us a US ally; and (b) this is not a zero-sum game. India’s de facto strategic policy of multi-alignment demands that we diversify defence procurement, R&D and joint development beyond our traditional partners, Russia, Israel, France, UK and Sweden. The move towards US equipment is already evident from the ongoing purchases of cutting edge American aircraft platforms like the P8i Poseidon; the C-130J Super Hercules; and the C-17 Globemaster III. So introducing the F-35 into the IAF would not be a fundamental change in alignment.

This process of engaging the US will inevitably be opposed by an influential segment of India’s strategic community, which appears unable to move beyond the slights, embargoes and denials of the past even when there is much to gain by refashioning the relationship. This peculiarly Indian inability to shed the baggage of the past is rooted in a cultural proclivity for personalising professional, and especially strategic relationships. In this mindset the world is an unchanging place where, if America sent the 7th Fleet into the Bay of Bengal in 1971, it would still be likely to rise against us at a crucial juncture. If America sided with Pakistan in the Cold War --- or so the Americaphobes reason --- it has something in its DNA that will align it with Pakistan forever. America can be pilloried for selling weaponry simultaneously to both Pakistan and India, but India’s simultaneous patronage of both American and Russian weaponry is entirely acceptable!

Fortunately, such cretins do not control any place except the blogosphere.

India is well positioned to create a purpose-built military, suited to its own conditions, by negotiating with multiple vendors from a position of strength. The argument that India will inevitably be a hapless victim of US pressure is a relic of the PL-480 era that survives only in the minds of some outdated analysts. Those of us who are cognisant of India’s already formidable --- and steadily growing --- strategic power and economic heft, are increasingly confident about New Delhi’s ability to get what it wants without giving what it cannot.

Just as India has passed the Nuclear Liability Bill on its own terms, and will not sign the CISMOA and BECA until it is clear that substantive benefits will accrue from these agreements, New Delhi is entirely capable of holding its own in a negotiation to buy the F-35 and to obtain the safeguards that the IAF needs for operating the F-35 in conformity with its doctrines, wherever India’s national interest demands.

Consider the concessions made to Israel, which is a strategic partner, not an F-35 development partner. Senior Israeli officials have confirmed that Washington has conceded Aviv the right to plug in Israeli Air Force command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4I) systems into specially made cockpit interfaces in the Israeli F-35 fighters. The F-35 main computer will enable a plug-and-play feature for integrating Israeli equipment. Israeli sources also reveal that the US has allowed the fitment of a detachable fuel tank to increase the F-35’s range for special missions in which “you can fly non-stealthy part of the way and become stealthy as you enter the danger zone”. This is a barely disguised reference to an aerial strike on Iran’s nuclear-bomb facilities, with the connivance of Saudi Arabia.

To argue that Washington will never give India what it is ready to give Israel is to be utterly oblivious of the changing power realities in Asia and, therefore, the world. While Israel and the US are deeply connected at a people-to-people level, India’s steady rise, the power dynamics in the Asia-Pacific, and Pakistan’s apparent freefall place India bang at the centre of Washington’s security calculus in this hemisphere.

Shed your fears, folks. The future is here.


  1. you have not addressed the issue of technology transfer Mr.Shukla. As i said before the Americans would not be willing to share technology. i don't think they will even transfer production lines. Americans are not worthy of our trust. A country which plays both the sides(ind/pak) should not be trusted.

  2. Ajay you are wrong on many counts. It's your blog. You have the prerogative of making a false case.

    I will try and list objections briefly.

    All aircraft makers need to make up their investment and will always hype their product which typically will not work as well as advertised. I see no reason why the F 35 would be diferent.

    A lot of effort has gone into make the F-35 stealthy. That would be a total waste if it carried 7 tons of bombs externally - killing stealth. If the F 35 has to be stealthy it can carry only 2 bombs internally. Why pay the US for stealth features which will be of no use since we need a "bomb truck"?

    War with China if at all will take places at Kargil like altitudes. At 20,000 feet plus aircraft are not maneuverable like they are at lower altitudes. The Jaguar was useless at those heights. The MiG 21 was not much better. Delta wings are better suited for that - so the Mirage 200 was better - and it was an air defence fighter modified for ground attack.

    India is the ONLY country in the world that needs to fight at those altitudes. The US is designing a fighter for all those partner nations. Not for India. Combat aircraft are always compromises and there is no guarantee whatsoever that the F-35 will be effective at those altitudes.

    An F-35 carrying external bombs will not be stealthy. A plane in the Himalayas has to stay below the mountaintops to avoid Chinese S-300 clone radar. But in doing that they have to be agile enough to avoid hitting the mountains. No. It is not as easy as you may think.Ask an aviator.

    Last but not the least - the economy of a nation is dependent on training its own nationals to build a high tech industry at home. We cannot get there by ensuring American jobs for American workers.

    I think you are wrong sir. You are an F-35 fanboy without being able to see all sides of the issue.

  3. "Shed your fears, folks. The future is here."

    Really... Tell that to US of A. We still have a lot of companies on US sanctions list. Even Obama is tight lipped on that. Try convincing HIM first. The Ball of trust building is still in US's court. Let them take the call first. Once bitten twice shy. They still don't trust us enough. :(

  4. No matter how sweet the deal is made to us and how reliable US becomes.. We are not going to get a single F35 before 2020. That is even if the deal is signed and done today.(Try putting that deal through the Finance Ministry...U will most probably get U a rocket) That is not going to win a war for us if we get into one (god-forbid) in 2015-20 time frame.

  5. you have some great points to make regarding IAF's ground strike capabilities and yes India is willing to buy defence equipments from the U.S. but can we recall what that equipments are-
    all of them being very crucial for our air lift,surveillance, and reconnaissance capability.
    But are we forgetting something?...
    India ain't gonna sign CISMOA and EUMA.
    so please tell me do you really believe that the U.S. congress will approve the transfer of such sensitive defence tech to India without signing all these bonds or the folks at LM have any other options.

  6. And to add... Mr. Obama 2day has agreed to mend its export embargo to the Indian Defence Co's like DRDO, ISRO, HAL & so... Well its forced by recession in US but still win win for both countries...
    & I feel its a good oppurtunity for India to bargain for F-35 & the matters related to avoiding End-user-aggrement.. And this news is also good for Tejas & AMCA as Lockhead or Boieng can now participate in Indian ventures...

  7. Col. Shukla,
    I will not comment on the F35 and the reason will be evident.
    "I’m beginning to believe the stinging observation by many foreigners that Indians don’t know how to argue at an intellectual plane. If we disagree with an argument, we try to discredit, not disprove."
    I have in my short stay of 30 years on this planet interacted with several non-Indians. Many non-Indians too behave in the same manner. My guess is this happens when we (humans) dont know much about the topic but dont like the argument (does not feel right.. kinda thing). Then when you dont have credible arguments you just get on the defensive.

    Most people who comment on your blog dont have your training, professional experience, sharp mind you possess. They are mostly patriots who want the best but think that most people who are at the top dont use their brains but rely on the incentives. My two cents.. I may be wrong..

  8. Dear Mr. Shukla.
    This is the first time I am commenting on something on your blog.

    I just want to say that I really like the way you have replied to everyone who has been accusing you and calling you names.

    I completely agree with you about having a specialist attack aircraft the having lots of Multirole AC.

    I am a big fan of your writing and would love to keep reading your blog with same interest for a long time.

    I would really like to know about why IAF is not thinking about what you have mentioned?

    Don't we have any experts in the IAF who can explain all these things to our babus in layman terms?

    If IAF eventually decides to buy F35 will USA sell it to us?

    What would be the expected price per ac.

    Sorry for my bad English trying to improve it. ( By reading blogs like yours)

    Thanks for all the articles you have been posting on this blog which helps people like me understand where my parents tax money is being spent.


  9. Very persuasively well written, Col. Shukla. I wholeheartedly agree about our proclivity for personalising professional/strategic relationships with the personal. But so do others.."I looked into his eyes" said Dubya. The only ones who dont seem to do that are our eastern neighbours. But then, guanxi is their form of personalizing.

    The future is here, but should it come with end user monitoring and such? I sure hope not.

    One point still worth thinking is the vulnerability of the F35 against S300 and better systems being mass deployed in Tibet? I recall the F117 that went down to way inferior air defences..

    After all, the F35 is as proven as the EFA, maybe even less so, except in Lockheed's marketing oriented simulations (or the USAF's simulations meant for their Congress so that the F35 does not meet the fate of the F22).

  10. But i surely rebut Lockheed Martins claims of 6 times more effective than the nearest 4th gen aircrafts!! Specially the high speed capabality claims... Well if we observe the wings and compare it to even F-16, we see that even F-16 is more capable of high speed performance... I know that a F-35 is more modern in quality specialy the built & engine & network centric capability... Overall its atleast twice & in ground attack mode atleast 3 times more capable than any 4.5 gen aircrafts but not 6 times!!!

  11. so three questions for you ajai and i won't have any thereafter.

    1) with the f-35 still in development, how is the IAF going to get a chance to test out the aircraft in the various conditions specific to the indian subcontinent? the only 5th gen aircraft in service today has substantial problems with its composite stealth material and how can we be sure that the f-35 does not also have such problems?

    2) how many do you propose we buy with the estimated pricetag of $38 million more than the Eurofighter fly away cost? that does not include the american missiles and combat payloads, infrastructural development, etc...

    3)buying the f-35 puts us at a great strategic disadvantage. with the introduction of 4+ and fifth generation mission software america has the ability to just turn off the aircraft from a some office in the pentagon. how do you propose we deal with that? america does not care about the needs of india. it only makes partners when it sees a clear benefit to itself, there is no denying that. what happens to the fleet of proposed f35 if america changes its mind about india in 15-20 plus years after acquisition?

    thanks, good argument glad to see you responded to the pressure

  12. Beautifully written and the logic presented is flawless. If implemented it would take IAF to another level (this is coming from a pakistani!). However do you not think that the resources required for a substaintial force would also need to be increased, perhaps substantially? Because in a full blown war the number of sorties matter as much as the quality of the aircraft. This has been demonistrated in many wars especially where the opponents are both strong. Also would the maintenance of this complex aircraft from FOB also be an issue?

  13. Convincing argument, Ajai.

    1. There are no argument on how India would get ITAR waiver.

    2. when UK, a NATO ally and development partner of JSF, is still struggling to get access to software codes, how India is going to manage access to codes ?

    3. Will US allow IAF to carry nukes in F35 ?

    4. There are many operational loopholes in your argument. F35 may be fit to replace Jaguars but not our MiG 21s.


    Looking at an actual photograph of Iraq War-2 bomb loads on F-15 Strike Eagle (with a huge bomb load and one of the worlds largest internal fuel capacity) released by the USAF.
    Two Fuel Tanks.
    Two LGBs/one targetting pod.
    Four JDAMs
    Two AMRAAMs
    Two AIM-9M/L

    Two fuel tanks
    Four LGBs
    Two AMRAAMs
    Two AIM-9L/M
    One Targetting pod.

    Lets take the F-35 all internal stealth role.
    It will carry
    2 1000lb. JDAMs.

    In its non stealth missions F-35A will carry:
    2 AMRAAMs
    2 Fuel Tanks.
    4 JDAMs
    2 AIM-9X

    The problem is that when it is carrying all that load, its T/W ratio is down in the dumps, it is detected from long ranges by modern early warning radars and fire control radars The external bomb, missiles and fuel tank load can increase its radar return to 1msq. without considering the plane itself (hence the internal points on gen-5 planes).

    The F-35 is worth 100 million dollars when its used in its all internal stealth mode.

    On the air to ground mission its 100 million dollars worth of gear that will still require a fighter escort.

  15. Happy Diwali everyone. Ajai, as usual an interesting and incisive piece. May I comment as follows:

    Threat perceptions - While being a strong believer in Nicholas Taleb's philosophy that you cannot forecast threats and should focus on capabilities I believe the Islamist Pak ++ threat is much more serious in the long term than China. Though a matter for another debate I believe China is a ntaural ally based on cultural and historic similarities. But I do agree that we may indeed face a short term border war against China.
    Air Superiority vs Strike - Bang on! We desparately need a dedicated strike fighter. Most important argument in the entire debate IMHO.
    JSF capabilities - agree its a true 5th gen strike figher. Liked your comment about performance with combat loads. Also I strongly feel that given the way we mistreat our defence forces we should minimize the number of pilots needed to reduce career progression/housing/rehab problems. So a single pilot aircraft is always better. I have never understood the rationale for a twin seater like the Su30MKI given our manpower probelms.
    Time Frames - agree that JSF maybe ready before the first MMCRAs come in but if the MOD scraps the MMCRA will they be able to place an order for the JSF on the terms we want in time? You have a higher opionion of them than I do and I hope you are right ;-)
    Strategic partnership with US - totally agree that they are natural allys in the current geopolitical calculus but disagree that we shouldnt tread with abundant caution. If we can achieve an Israel like relationship with the US then great but I think we are a long long way off and I certainly want to ensure that every piece of mission critical tech we buy from them is available to us in combat conditions. Also the US is the only country where individual executive decisions on arms sales are subject to congress ratification. That process might be long and tortuous.

    Agree with all other arguments. You didnt discuss price though. What is the MoD thinking? Are they seriously considering the JSF?

    Akshay Kapoor

  16. I want you to please write articles for my blog. It is a famous one and will provide you a platform. Reply me there by a comment. Thanks

  17. It makes absolute sense in scrapping the MRCA for a fifth generation fighter. It makes even more sense considering that MRCA deal has been significantly delayed. I'm not sure about the implications of scrapping MRCA after engaging suppliers for more than 3 years but that's another story.

    External purchase should target high end technology. Low and medium market should be indigenous.

  18. The most apparent failure in your argument is the absence of the "c" word, cost.
    Every delay that occurs increases the cost for both US and international customers alike. Do the incremental strike advantages you described really make up for the estimate that F-35 will cost nearly 3 times as much as F-18 or 4 times as much as a f-15, and cost nearly 50% more in Operations and Sustainment cost compared to 4th generation fighters?

    The answer is no.

  19. Ajai sir, since India isn't ready to sign CISMOA and BECA f35 won't have all the high end avionics so what's the use of advocating f35 ?

  20. I am a fan of your journalism. Your thoughts about F-35 are very valid & I fully support your argument that India should buy F-35. Especially at times when US economy needs big buck projects like this. But one thing I could not get is what happens to the contenders of MMRCA, if we choose F-35 which is not a participant of MMRCA competition. I am sure they wont make any noise, but India should make a win win situation for all the parties involved.

  21. Ajai,

    A well argued post. I was initially very skeptical about your suggestions but I am now almost convinced of the truth of your arguments. Couple of things though:

    (1) How about playing with figures some more? Give us some numbers showing possible production scenarios, what the F-35 production partners will get and when, production rates, dates and when India can practically hope to get its planes. Compare this with the current contenders.

    (2) Have you spoken to IAF personnel about this? Perhaps you've written about it, I can't recall. What do they think?

  22. Ajai, thanks once again for the post. I agree with you that the F-35 is better than 4th gen planes, that is common sense. But what matters most is (1) India learning to make a 4 or 4.5 gen plane from the drawing board to production. For that reason the SAAB GRIPEN IN is the best. They have agreed for complete TOT (of course we are not going to manufacture our own engines, we don't have that sort of Engineering base)(2)our war doctrines are different from the ones of the USA, hence stealth is not a priority now or in the near future.(3)The SAAB GRIPEN is the best option because since it is cheaper we can have the 'numbers' and hence scrap the 'white elephant' Tejas.(4)The F-35 is good but it is one costly blunder, if we could get the F-22 and of course the technology, then we would need no FGFA,no AMCA,nor LCA only couple of hundred GRIPENS or even take the SUPER VIPER (if the F-22 is offered). I sincerely hope that all this writing on the wall will make sense to the GOI, the MOD,the DRDO and the IAF. To sum it all, F-22 yes, F-35 for India a no!no!no!FGFA nonsense! Tejas down the drain!SAAB GRIPEN yes for India.

  23. Why do you think that PAK-FA would be any less of a ground strike fighter than F-35. It has a "much" larger internal payload than F-35. It will be stealthy, have top of the line sensors fusion, full networking, long range and supercruise. What more do you need for ground strike? Just because a fighter has excellent aerodynamic performance does not make it any less of a ground strike platform.

    Take Su-30MKI & Su-35BM for example. You say that F-35 is a superior ground strike platform than those a/cs. Perhaps, but that is not my point. The point is that for their time and generation, they are both the best air superiority and ground attack platforms. PAK-FA seems to be going the same way.

  24. Excellent post laying down various dimensions throughout the seris.

    IMO what would complete the post is shedding some light on the flip side as well. There is always a catch, and understanding and knowing how to work with the catch will make a certain idea more palatible.

    Good :
    -Point wonderfully made on less reliance on all-rounders and need for specialists.

    -Answer to low squadron numbers (temporary) is not always brute force approach of buy-more/buy-now. Stratigically, one can theoritically preempt a hostile situation from building up. But invariably such a reasonable assumption WILL seem like crime, when it can become a decade long pursuit in the hands of MOD.

    - Extremely dissapointed with the justification of your views through LM's responses titled "According to Lockheed Martin’s written response to my questions". That is a condensed marketing brochure and using that as justification brings down the qualify of, what is otherwise a well thought post. Similar in theme, but less harmful is this ..
    "It is also disinformation that the F-35 cannot carry a “long-range” air-to-air missile in its bay. Even though the F-35 has no requirement for such a missile, Lockheed Martin tells me that internal studies have confirmed.........."

    - Hopefully you can adress this in future. What India can bring to the table is a low-cost R&D/manufacturning capabilities (bringing costs down). Does going with F-35 in any way use this to bring down the cost for India as well as making India part of its global manufacturing base (If we are indeed a confident lot at the table, then it is within realm of possibility).

    - Lets assume LM can probably carry the most advanced missile load possible. What are the chances that those missiles would be sold to India without any fail switches. What are the chances that India would be able to integrate its own or other missiles from the marketplace onto F-35?

  25. Top analysis
    Thanks a lot for that!!

  26. Mr.Ajai,

    The RFP for MMRCA requires ToT and Licensed production in India.

    Would that be possible for the F35 ?

    Also, the requirement is CURRENT.

    The RFP lays down that the first aircraft is supplied within 36 months of the contract being signed and the 18th within 48 months. The 19th aircraft, the first to be assembled in India, will come within 54 months. Thereafter, there will be an incremental increase with the last aircraft to be delivered by 2020.

    So if the contract for MMRCA is placed by 2011, the first aircraft should be ready for induction in 2013-2014 time frame.
    Can the F35 be inducted in that time frame ?

    Actually speaking, there is no real clarity on the level of ToT (which is a very important requirement) to be met by the current US fighters in MMRCA competition..

    Imagining such levels of ToT and license building for the F35 would be plain delusional.

    Regarding your "getting the best that we can buy" theory , I guess you will soon start - Another radical thought/brain freeze -- Scrap PAKFA - F22 for FGFA / NGFA ..

  27. I am happy atleast one person is with me on this one .....F 35 can transform the scenario of soth east Asia and capabilities of our airforce
    With IAF's expertise and help from the US i dont find anything wrong in having a ground strike aircraft in the inventory....
    Cost is never an issue as the aircraft might cost less considering the numbers expected to be commisioned
    US arm-twisting is not that big an issue....Even our long term arm suppliers have armtwisted us on many occasions
    i am an admirer of Su-30 and very much optimistic about the FGFA and MTA projects and expect it to be as successful as BRAHMOS. But lets not forget that Russian engines are powering JF-17s which are going to be pitted against us in occurrence of a potential conflict
    I expect MMRCA deal to be signed by 2013-14 considering the pace of negotiations (sadly) our govt has been accustomed to do since years....but we are not guaranteed of delivery anytime soon with an effective AESA radar....
    So F-35 can possibly be the best fighter and a long term investment

  28. i have but one comment; i have never seen a blog with a more appropriate name. sir, no matter what the MoD decides regarding the MMRCA deal, i am happy to see that at least one person is not afraid of thinking "out-of-the-box" and sharing his ideas and opinions. the phrase has been beaten to death by overuse but i couldn't help it. keep writing and a very happy diwali to you and all you readers (including the "whiny" one :))

  29. Hello Col. Ajai,,,
    Happy Diwali to you and to your blog reader's..
    Your response to your critics(inculding me)is one with full of hard researched and personal belief , which no one can doubt about...
    Talking about you sold your heart and soul to devil is baseless, I known you would never ever do that...

    I comment on 2 things a.) Price the Canadian Airfroce is going to pay for 65 planes and we dont what's delivery dates b.) amd most important This purchase should kill LCA or any indigenous efforts as it will steping stone for greater future..

    BTW,, recently US announced its looking for GEN 6 planes for Airforce. Whats your take on that????

  30. You (author) acting like a US warplanes salesman.

    When the US found that they are at the tail end of the 125 Indian Fighters; they have begun to convass for their own future planes. F-35 has to fly first; become operational with USAF and then prove itself in a battle with a worthy adversary (Iraq, Libya, Serbia etc. excluded. Then only it is worth considering by a military technology underdog like india.


    Hari Sud

  31. Dude, who's going to give F-35 to India? I never hrd dat US is willin to "help" India built its "ground strike capabilities". Come out of hangover dude. The real world is entirely different.
    Though I won't say that u r an agent of Lockheed Martin, but ur blog really sounds like that....I suggest u to change ur writing tenor.

  32. A very good post.

    But I believe that the F-35 should be considered if the air force can get a third multi-role fighter.

    India's military doctrine now focuses on fighting a two front war.

    The Su-30MKIs alone are not adequate to meet the needs of a large scale two-front war.

    A third fighter type or more Su-30MKIs are needed to increase our deterrence.

    The LCA, MiGs, etc have very low survivability, and in case of a high threat environment, would meet annihilation very quickly.

  33. Ajaji jee.. your argument is fine.. but you forget... Stealth is not valid always... it is only invisible to radar to certain level.. and as for offence... We have to take the Radar instillation at the border first for which Brahmos or anti radiation missile is enough... You cant go into EW environment through out and strike the capital of bejing .... F35 will become toast if you dont take the Radar at the border... and it is a single engine which will be very risky...

    A big mantra is forgotten by you.. Take the Dominance of the Air and the strike the ground... So unless you dont have air superiority even if you have F35 we will be a chicken...

    Your argument of deep strike is wrong or flaw unless it can carry a missile like Brahmos... an F35 cant be invisble to radar always... there is a distance to which it can be visible and then it will beep in radar.. we dont want to waste such huge money for a propotionate distance of radar invisiblitiy for which Brahmos with MKI can do the job very well..

    so i repeat we need Air superiority fighter to take Chinese force and then we can bomb them at our will

  34. Excellent thought provoking analysis by Col.

    but alas! Mig-21's are really dwindling.

  35. I may be a loner here supporting Col Shukla's claim, However while some of criticism is well positioned, mostly others seems to be anti-US sentiments.
    It really seems strange to me when somebody talks about F-35's - "yet to prove itself" theory. To be on forefront of technology, one cannot expect to buy something which has proved itself in a war. Among many IAFs acquisitions, including Mig-29s, Su-30s, Phalcon, P-8i hardly had any past experiences to boast off, but are really good machines, and we are not even talking about the MRCA contenders like EF-2000 and Mig-35s, and few sorties of Rafales over Afghanistan!

  36. Agreed the MMRCA needs to be Scrapped

    Dear Mr. Shukla,
    The MMRCA has been a flawed exercise to conceive and has continued to be exercised in an irresponsible manner.I agree with u. It was a classic case of too many cooks.

    The delay of Tejas was emminent even in the early 1990s. The initiative was the GOI's, it was started with Su-30 and Mirage 2000 as the contestants. The requirement was a multi-role fighter aircraft. The Su-30 won out using its low cost edge. Apparently the IAF took the initiative to integrative DRDO developed avionics and other subsystems to make the aircraft truly multi-role. All other equipment that were not developed were either procured from third party system integrators of Israeli or French origin or conceptualised to be made indigenously.

    rest of post in my blog, since no space anymore
    I agree to the above.the prime reason I believe we should not resort to an additional fighter is cost, which i wish to explain in my blog.

  37. I have a few arguments against F-35
    Kindly prove me wrong.

    1) India's buying any military hardware from USA would just be subsidizing the freebies they grant to Pakistan for use against India. We would just be paying them to kill us.

    2) The Americans will never take any step that will shift the balance from Pakistan to India. Further, the Americans will never antagonize China by offering us weapons that can be lethal against them. In summary: Any such technology will never be offered. So the whole point of choosing F-35 comes only when it is on the table.

    3) Even if this or any other technology is offered, the Americans simply cannot be trusted in this regards. Without signing certain clauses, the essential technologies will be withheld/denied. They can always be expected to withhold essential spares during times of crisis, let alone remote disable these planes via trojans.

    There has to be another alternative to meet the legitimate requirements that you have pointed out.


  38. Well.. two reasons to shunt out F-35..

    1.Not being a signatory of CISMOA and other crappy agreements will take out all the Zing & bling from the F-35 and yes "hopefully" India gets treated on par with Israel and gets "permission" to add our own Electronics.. but this will add to the already exhoribatant cost and the delay of deliveries..

    2. No matter how much we mean to US in the future... it will not provide any "stealth" technology for our Home grown weapons program unlike the rest of the MMRCA contenders.. and I believe this is one of the major considerations of the GOI for this whole saga...

  39. Sir,
    Great article.

    @ things bother, the defence agreements, and the cost.

    Would you consider doing an article on the repercussions of the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), Communication and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Co-operation (BECA). It would be great if you could add in some American point(s)-of-view, and maybe let us know how the countries that currently sign it (who all are there?) are holding up etc.


  40. I think this whole debate is pointless and is waste of time. F-35 might well be much better than any in the MMRCA, but at this late stage, when final report is with Defence Ministry, thinking that whole MMRCA effort can or should just be scrapped is wishful thinking. However well intentioned, but I think you are just too late in making the case for F-35 instead of MMRCA.

    I am feeling little upset because I think you know it well as well.

  41. Any war plane requires sufficient numbers to be effective, and those numbers are dictated by the cost of the aircraft. The technological edge given to today's fighter bombers is a quantum leap as compared to the days of yore when bombing meant chucking 50lb bombs out of the cockpit. The F-35 is a tour de force of technology and integration. But as it stands as a aircraft it is not completely suitable for the task at hand. The me-262 was light years ahead of anything in the sky at the time of its introduction and it could not change the way things were going. Similarly with the steady downward revision of numbers and upward revision of cost with regards to this platform there have to be some very serious questions that have to be asked as to the requirement this aircraft will fill prospectively in the IAF strike component. Firstly all aircraft operating in the IAF will be combined arms offensives with FGFA/Su-30 providing persistent air dominance while the f-35 can drop the bombs and scoot. The cost escalation has been due to a single variant the f-35B VTOL the others are doing fine. But can India afford it and the political ramifications that come with it.
    Getting it will certainly mean a more stringent CISMOA agreement which the airfoce rejected. It will mean that there will also be technology that will be withheld, britain is not getting the full deal with this aircraft. In any case getting this plane will reduce the IAF to second fiddle in grand scheme of things. It meets the requirements and you have put up an eloquent defence for its case but, still approaching 120 million a pop it will be better to then beg for the f-22 and add 60 million into the bucket to get a real performer. Or if you so please there is going to be an inevitable bomb truck version of the PAK-FA that will be analogous to the current mix of su-30/34 compliment, and it will have parts commonality.

  42. Ajai-Sir
    Can you pls put a Facebook link on your page so that your analysis can be shared with many like-minded readers ..?

  43. FYI, UK closes in on $11bn fighter deal:

  44. Air superiority or Ground Attack?
    I think difference between USAF & IAF is the threat perception & war case of US its war doctrine is to immediately take control of enemy air assets due to sheer qualitative & quantitative superiority backed by tomhawk cruise missiles electronic countermeasures has faced enemies wid little or no air the depleted iraqi airforce or taliban...its primary objective is to pulverize enemy land assets provide terrain denial to enemy & provide effective air cover to friendly forces...leavin little room for air superiority...they even have curtailed raptor's case of Indian context we have to face PAF or the formidable PLAAF or in worst case scenario...both simultaneously...hence air superiority is primary while air to ground is secondary...
    As far as air supremacy capabilities of FGFA is cannot be stated as formidable because it is not ready yet...and thus i dont want to comment on it(wid russians it could be another Gorshkov)...
    hence MMRCA is a must...I m not agaist Americans ...they make best fighter jets in the world & would love superhorn to it has nice air to ground capabilities...even JSF is good....but to say that entire MMRCA is a farce or not required doesnt augurs well Mr. Shukla...

  45. Nice Comeback!. The whine argument! That was gold. I disagree with some points below
    -> Operational necessity: air supremacy, or ground strike?
    You state that we should have the capability to strike these RnR places to the west, expecting zero retalliation/reaction from their state supporters ?. Then lets not forget their friend to the north that could start posturing agressively on a very long border. So we spend this huge amount of money on buying superb ground attack fighters and are now short on interceptors.Our mindset should be even if something gets through it should never be allowed to get out. Also, In the north and east it seems the argument for F-35 is against forward enemy troop formations, can't this be met with artillery,MBRLs, attack choppers, precision missiles[that we claim to have].
    ->Su-30MKI for ground strikes?
    I would agree with you here on all points except, F-35 satellite-based GPS, we know the people to the north can knock those down so what do we do then???
    ->Why buy a “bomb truck”, when we can get a “real fighter” that also bombs?
    Agree with all your points here.
    ->Can the F-35 survive a hostile air-to-air environment?
    From what I have read you think the F-35 can knock the socks off an MKI. I think the jury's still out on that one.
    ->Why another Gen-5 fighter, besides the FGFA?
    Agree, but not relevant to the clear and present danger.
    ->F-35 development time overruns… is that relevant to India?
    Very! I doubt even with negotiations it would be available before 2017. But we should let LM make such a statement they can be held to.
    ->Declining squadron numbers
    With that reasoning in the second para 1962 should never have happened though I agree with the last para.
    ->The death of Indian aerospace industry?
    Agreed, it is a different beast but we would still not benefit techno-industrially from this
    ->Are we ready to hitch our wagon to the US?
    Gold Again, but lets test and see how important an ally we are by asking for all the bells and whistles without or as few agreements as possible.

  46. Your article points out most of the deficiencies our Air Force has. It also clearly shows the clear requirement of Ground Attack Aircraft. But does the F-35 meets the bill ?

    Many issues were pointed out by other readers like TOT etc. I will state the once they missed.

    F-35 is a 5th Generation stealth aircraft but its not a Full Spectrum Stealth plane like the F-22 and the B-2. It can be easily detected using L-Band Leading Edge wing tip radar developed by the Russians for the Su-30. The Chinese can simply get this Upgrade for their Su-30's. The so called stealth advantage is lost by a simple upgrade. A bit more expensive counter options are the ground based systems, namely S-300/400 which employ a dedicated wide Multi-Band radars which will negate the F-35 its advantages. The Chinese already have about 10 S-300 Batteries giving cover to Beijing and many more locally produced less potent replicas. Only the F-22 was designed to defeat these systems. You might recall the US opposition to Russia selling S-300 Batteries to Iran was for a reason.

    Secondly maintenance issues dog F-22. For every hour it flies it requires 30 hours of maintenance. The F-35 will also have same issues.........and hypothetically if India goes for the F-35 and they will locally assembled by HAL, From their infamous reputation these issues will multiply 10 times. This was pointed out by IAF AME who narrated the maintenance issues they faced with HAL made Jaguars and the clear absence of the same issues on the British made Jaguars.

    Thirdly the scope of future up-gradation is limited on the F-35 to only electronics/avionics. Its design has put severe limitations on Engine or Airframe Upgrades. Just for argument sake compare this with older gen Su-30. Its in the market from more than two decades. And still its airframe and design are open for Upgrades. Upgrading the existing engines AL-31F engines with AL-41F engines, and adding conformal tanks will give it a super cruise (It won't be to the F-22 or FGFA level but nevertheless clear advantage). The F-35 can never do a similar upgrade, it already has single engine limitations.

    Further the EUMA which India signed with US prohibits local repairs with out the OEM permission and ban third-party upgrades or modifications. Case study is the Indian Army AN/TPQ-37 fire finding radars. The army chief expressed displeasure the most of the time these radars are offline and they have to wait for the engineers have to come from US to fix them. Army can certainly fix these problems on its own had the equipment come from another country but since its from US the EUMA prohibits such repairs. The F-35 purchase (If there is one) will a big one so the Lockheed might station a few engineers here but if the Indian-US relations turn sour where will the IAF get the support from ?

    I believe the MMRCA cost per plane was derived taking into account the cost of maintenance of the plane through its life of 40 years. In these terms what will be the cost of F-35. Its only big advantage is the sensor fusion. Its limited stealth and absence of Super Cruise leave a lot to be desired for a 5th Gen Aircraft. IAF needs to decide the additional cost and head-aches US agreements bring are worth the performance advantages F-35 brings.

  47. why not change the direction of AMCA into a advanced strike jet with air superiority capability ??
    Wont this just add to the multiplicity of platforms.??
    MMRCA is a stop gap approach isnt it?

  48. Why buy the half baked product that even the Brits and US are having doubt about?There's lot of talk about problems with this aircraft and once in production when will India get it's share? May be 2020 or more? There's always strings with US,especally with the most up to date aircraft and anyway would they sell it to India?

  49. Must say I'm gratified by the improved quality of the debate! Thank you, all.

    Here are some responses to some points that have been made by visitors:


    You say: “All aircraft makers… always hype their product which typically will not work as well as advertised. I see no reason why the F 35 would be diferent.”

    I agree with you. And just as the F-35 is hyped, so too are the other aircraft --- the Eurofighter, Rafale & Co. So let’s deduct 15% off all the manufacturers’ claims? That still leaves the F-35 streets ahead of the others.

    Or are you now going to say: ONLY the F-35 is hyped?

    Just the same way, the 20,000 feet altitudes that you cite will be equally high for every fighter… for the F-35, as much as the Eurofighter, Rafale & Co. So what’s your argument?

    If it is that the Mirage 2000 performed well during Kargil, no… it was largely ineffective. Don’t imagine that the IAF’s claims are gospel. I was an operations officer in a corps HQ in J&K during the Kargil conflict and don’t need to hear from the IAF on this matter!

    Next, India is not the only country in the world that needs to fight at 20,000 foot plus. So too do Pakistan and China.

    And lastly, I am as aware as you of the need to build a defence industrial base. Where I am different is that I don’t believe that rhetoric about indigenisation is a substitute for national defence. Our indigenous capability is insufficient to meet the needs of national defence for at least another 15 years. And, in that time-frame, we will remain dependent upon imported fighters. This debate is only about which fighter to import.

    Or are you saying the MMRCA fighters will be more “Indian” than the F-35. Then you are living in the same delusion as the MoD about the benefits of ToT.



    I don’t know whether you are sitting in the office of the Deputy Secretary of State or Defense in the United States but, if you’re not, then you’re just speculating when you say that “We are not going to get a single F35 before 2020”.

    Nobody really knows the answer to when we could get our first F-35. What I’m saying is: we have the leverage to drive a hard bargain and make sure we get it quick.

  50. Aatish

    I don’t know whether you are sitting in the office of the Deputy Secretary of State or Defense in the United States but, if you’re not, then you’re just speculating when you say that “We are not going to get a single F35 before 2020”.

    Nobody really knows the answer to when we could get our first F-35. What I’m saying is: we have the leverage to drive a hard bargain and make sure we get it quick.



    You say (as do many others) as if God has spoken on the issue: “India ain't gonna sign CISMOA and EUMA”.

    In case you’re not aware of the modalities of this negotiation, it is a work in progress. For now, India is not signing. The day South Block sees substantial benefits in signing… hey, where’s my pen?



    Your English is perfect. In that medium length post, there is not a single error. Keep writing and, even more importantly, keep reading.

    I promise I’m not saying this only because you agree with what I argue….



    You write: “ne point still worth thinking is the vulnerability of the F35 against S300 and better systems being mass deployed in Tibet?”

    Surely you will agree with me that no advance in military technology provides 100% survivability. That is also true of stealth. No aircraft --- not the B-2, not the F-117, not the F-22 and, equally, not the F-35 --- provide fail-safe stealth. All that they do is make it more difficult for enemy radar to pick them up… and gain operational advantage from that. Radar systems will inevitably get better and better, and more capable of detecting even stealthy fighters at longer distances. But a more stealthy aircraft will always stand a better chance of fulfilling its operational mission than a less stealthy one.

  51. Anonymous 21:04:

    I don’t know how we’ll get a chance to test, but I can bet my last buck that the Israelis have not bought the fighter sight unseen or flight untested!! The day India says it would like to test the F-35 with a view to buying it… I believe Robert Gates himself will pick up the phone to Lockheed Martin and tell him to do whatever is needed.

    Your questions about price are entirely speculative, as are your estimations of the Eurofighter’s price. Nobody really knows what the real figures are.

    Your argument that “america has the ability to just turn off the aircraft from a some office in the pentagon” is wildly paranoid. What do you think that will do for relations between India and the US? Or do you believe that Washington is just faking it??

    And what do you think “turning off the F-35” will do for US arms sales to the rest of the world?

    You know something? I we spend our whole lives believing that everyone is out to screw us… they won’t need to. We’ll already have screwed ourselves!


    Sher Khan

    The additional aircraft needed to cater for downtime are written into the squadron figures. In operational planning, a squadron is expected to have 80% of its aircraft in the air at any given time.



    You won’t ever get the software codes. Don’t even go there. What we can bargain hard for --- just as the Israelis have successfully done --- are cockpit interfaces and plug-and-play adaptors which would allow us to supplement the F-35 avionics with crucial aspects of our own.

  52. Akshay Kapoor:

    “I believe China is a ntaural ally based on cultural and historic similarities.”

    Akshay, are you saying that we have more cultural and historic similarities with China than Tibet has… or Xinjiang… or Manchuria… or Mongolia?

    Well China has attacked, and established its control, over all of those culturally similar entities!



    You say: “(The PAK-FA) has a ‘much’ larger internal payload than F-35”.

    Do you work, by any chance, in the Kremlin? I’ve been following the PAK-FA for a while, but I’ve never come across authentic figures about its internal payload…


    nirav j

    Your post, “I guess you will soon start - Another radical thought/brain freeze -- Scrap PAKFA - F22 for FGFA / NGFA …”

    I guess you haven’t read (or maybe understood) a word of what I have proposed.


    Hari Sud from Toronto:

    Your comment: “F-35 has to fly first; become operational with USAF and then prove itself in a battle with a worthy adversary (Iraq, Libya, Serbia etc. excluded).

    Aha! So we’re going to have to wait for World War III before we buy any US military equipment.

    Meanwhile, I suppose it is okay to go ahead with such battle-tested worthies as the Eurofighter, Rafale, Gripen NG and the MiG-35?


    Anonymous 00:11:

    You write: “Your argument of deep strike is wrong or flaw unless it can carry a missile like Brahmos”.

    Sir, I have not made an argument for deep strike. My argument is for close air support, battlefield interdiction and dislocation strikes.

  53. Neel:

    You write: “India's buying any military hardware from USA would just be subsidizing the freebies they grant to Pakistan for use against India.”

    My friend, the US is not really dependent on India for funds. It has been providing defence equipment to Pakistan long before India bought military hardware from them. The reason for that is simple: Pakistan has them over a pork barrel.



    You write, “The me-262 was light years ahead of anything in the sky at the time of its introduction and it could not change the way things were going.”

    WW II historians all agree that if the Me-262 has been introduced into the Luftwaffe in 1943, when it first flew, it would have changed the course of the air war. Unfortunately, Hitler overruled his air staff and kept perfecting for another year and a half. By then, the war had already been lost.

    Even so, the Me-262 made such an impact that nobody ever argued quality versus numbers while flying against that fighter.


    Anonymous 11:45

    You write: “So we spend this huge amount of money on buying superb ground attack fighters and are now short on interceptors.”

    No, I’m not suggesting that we be short on interceptors. I’m arguing that we are badly short of strike capability… and that we should get some urgently, while continuing to build up air-to-air capability.

    You also write: “From what I have read you think the F-35 can knock the socks off an MKI. I think the jury's still out on that one.”

    Not if the jury is the United States Air Force!


    Anonymous 12:48

    You write: “For every hour (the F-22) flies it requires 30 hours of maintenance. The F-35 will also have same issues”

    That’s a real leap of logic! Why do you assume the F-35 will also have the same issues? Because both are American aircraft? Or because both are stealth aircraft? Or because they are Lockheed Martin aircraft? Or because they are aircraft?

    Sorry, but I don’t see the connection. We’ll say the F-35 has serious maintenance issues when it flies for some time and we find that it has serious maintenance issues. For now, it is clean.

    You write: “Further the EUMA which India signed with US prohibits local repairs with out the OEM permission and ban third-party upgrades or modifications.”

    Have you seen the EUMA? No, you haven’t. Nobody has. But I can confirm to you that there is no such clause.

    As everyone who follows defence knows, the ANTPQ-37 problems predate the EUMA between India and the US.

    You write: “I believe the MMRCA cost per plane was derived taking into account the cost of maintenance of the plane through its life of 40 years.”

    That’s not the case. You are mixing up two issues: “life-cycle costing” and “quoted price”.

    You also write: “The Americans will never take any step that will shift the balance from Pakistan to India”.

    See my arguments above on the subject of strategic paranoia.

  54. Col. Shukla:


    Your case is very well presented, sir. :)

    Akshay Kapoor:

    China does not like the fact that one of their main historical classics " Xī Yóu Jì (Journey to the west)" talks explicitly about the influence of India on China. By China's "historically these lands belonged to the Tang dynasty" argument for every place they covet.. I am just happy that Macedonia is not asking for all the countries that Alexander conquered, or Mongolia for all the lands that Genghis Khan conquered(Including China).

    Yes, China and India have ancient cultural links, but sadly those two roads parted in a wood long time ago. Talk to any Indian soldier or diplomat or spy or industrialist.. and you will learn more.

    If we lower our guard against China, we will have a 1962 redux for sure.

  55. I agree with your F-35 argument. I think the plan should be:-

    1. Massive upgrade of infantry equipment and weapons for mountaina and CT-COIN in next 2 years. US should be asked to sell advanced TI/IT thermal imager/night sights etc for the same.

    2. Increase the orders for Su-30MKI

    3. Increase orders for LCA Mark-1

    4. And yes go for F-35

  56. Fine Ajai jee.... Your call for close air support, battlefield interdiction and dislocation strikes is oke but all this needs an air dominance at front.. so these need precision striking features but not a stealth plane... A stealth plane is valid only for Air superiority.. While for bombing we need bombers like B2 ... an F-35 cant act like both for us.. do you agree on this? Because US doctrine is written on top of these two planes.. and You very well know F-35 will come in to picture when F-22 finishes its job...

    Secondly All the partners including US,UK,Italy are not depending on F-35 alone but they have other programs like EFT,F-22,F-15 for the jobs... While Israel is going to depened on F-15 and F-16 more than F-35 for air clearance and They will be going to use F-35 mostly for striking Iran Nuclear... if Russia provides them S-300 or S-400 then all goes for toss...

    So what i say is your argument on Technology is fine but on the plane as a whole is very invalid... We need precision weapons as per your argument but not Stealth plane...

    So as i said we need air superiority fighter and yes we need precision weapons which we can take the help of Israel or France...

  57. Ajai,
    Just forgot to mention my name. I don't want an "anonymous" tag. So sending the same comments for your moderation with due signature. Sorry for making you rework. Actually wanted a job in Indian bureaucracy but landed somewhere else.

    As I had said to you in mail before, I am not against F35 but is also of the view that MMRCA tenders shouldn't be scrapped.

    The case for F35:
    1) It shuts down the F35 option for Pakistan.
    2)Since the chinese have flown the sukhois like us, and russia being the best of friends with chinese, it would not be impossible for the chinese to assume about the capabilities of FGFA and develop countermeasures. But for F35, this will not be the case. So a F35 in proximity to Sino Indian border is going to raise their discomfiture index.
    3)A strong message will be given to ADA/DRDO/HAL that "listen guys, IAF suffered due to LCA because we didn't have plan B for plan A. This will not be the case now. If you can give us a truly 5th gen fighter, well and good, otherwise get lost,we have a plan B in place".

    The reason against scrapping the MMRCA will be:
    1) Legal recourse can be taken by the vendors although I am not sure such a provison exists.
    2) Transfer of technology issues with US.
    3) Even yesterday, a national news channel broke news about how the US is pressuring India to sign the various agreements before any defence deals go through. The last thing IAF requires is an American plane without the flexibity of weapons, command and control from other sources.
    4) We can bring the various European partners to actively lobby for our LCA MK2 and NGFA.
    5) It will take atleast 2 decades for any major air force to be called a truly 5th gen force and that includes US. And also that doesnt mean they will say good bye to all 4th gen fighters they have. For eg, China will not retire the 300 odd J-10's and 150 J11's when J12 comes along in 2020. So no need to strike the panic button.

    So MOD and IAF, go for both: if budget is a constraint order only 126 Typhoons/Rafales and 64-74 F35's. Learn to keep everyone happy.

    Rahul Samanta.

  58. Ajai, it would make sense if you were making such a sales pitch for the F-22 Raptor with all its bells and whistles.
    Trust me, the F-35 doesn't cut it.
    Ya, I know, I know, the F-22 has its issues which can run longer than 26 volumes of Britannicas but still, the F-35 doesn't quite cut it :)
    Finito... not yet. Let it get inducted into the US forces. Chances are, with all the CBM we are currently engaging in with the Yanks, a few of our Fighter Jocks would get a joyride on the JSF.
    Too early to sing hosannas of the JSF.
    Remember, people had gone the whole hog about the Raptor. Oh yes, there were other indestructibles before that, particularly in the Stealth category. Wait for 8 more years, doodh ka doodh aur paani ka paani ho jayega.

  59. Why not buy F35: -

    1. High Integration Time
    2. High Maintenance
    3. EUMA
    4. USA as PoO
    5. High MRP
    6. Nothing about turnaround time (one who can get most sorties out of their fighters win the war)
    7. What good is electronic avionics suit when India is not going to get it (we are not signatories of agreements that come with such installations)

    Also, wars in mountains are not won in the air (china knows this, study its moves VERY CAREFULLY). You have mistaken F35s place in your simulated scenario. Kargil was a freak - unless China comes to India and build bunkers, ground strikes shall be limited, and will need precision. Since they will need long distance travel deep into enemy territory - stealth bombers may come handy F35 won't, not unless IAF secures Himalayan airspace. Good luck with that.

    Why buy F35:-
    If what you have written in your blog about F35 is indeed true - it is the best choice available.

    BUT if India goes after F35 now, forget any agreement before four years from now MAY BE. India is democracy after all - everyone must have their say. Lord knows when the deliveries would start them. Poor IAF, Chinese must be in fits ...

  60. Shuklaji you wrote:
    "Just the same way, the 20,000 feet altitudes that you cite will be equally high for every fighter… for the F-35, as much as the Eurofighter, Rafale & Co. So what’s your argument?"

    My My! "What's my argument?" you ask? Are you looking for a fight? Or gyan? We can both be polite. Or we can both be sarcastic and argumentative.

    1) The 4 MMRCA contenders have been tested at those altitudes. The F-35 is not even in service yet.

    2) Did you know hat the ideal design for a fighter that is nimble at high altitude but can also take off from short airfields at low altitude with a good load of fuel and weapons is a straight-winged aircraft like the Hawk (or the HJT 16 Kiran). Have you heard of HAL's "CAT" - Combat advanced Trainer? Can you find out why it was cancelled? A twin engined, straight winged aircraft with night flying ability and PGM capability would be ideal. It could be designed and made totally in India using 3+ gen tech and six could be made for the price of one F-35. But our defence planners may be as short sighted as you are in demanding imports.

    3) Your comment about China and Pakistan needing to fight at 20,000 feet is a pointless one that adds no value to your post. You need to go the whole 9 yards and say what it is that China and Pakistan use at those altitudes and why those are better or worse than Indian choices - rather than scoring silly rhetorical brownie points.

    4) One parting shot about the F-35. Peace time attrition is proven to be the biggest cause of loss of combat aircraft. In India's smoggy air engines wear out sooner than in Europe's skies. Twin engine aircraft show far lower attrition rates than single engine aircraft. Apart from that twin engines offer better safety for a pilot on a combat mission. And you are pushing for the single engine F-35. Ignorance is bliss.

    5) I don't suppose you have even considered the thought that he US, having spent untold billions in developing the supremely capable F-35 Raptor is now using some of those technologies to sell a vastly less capable F-35 to sucker nations so that the US can recoup some of its investment in 5 Gen tech. The US is not selling the F-22 even to its closest allies.

  61. Ajai,

    There is no denying that India needs strike aircrafts. Argument that has been put forth by many of us is that we don't have to replace the much needed multirole fighter in medium category with a strike aircraft like F35. May be MoD floats a separate tender or develops MCA on the lines of strike fighter. As F35 may not be suited for deep penetration strikes, we cannot buy one for close air support & other for deep strikes.

    IAF can't fly heavy MKIs for tasks which can be done with medium multirole. More over, they are not going to perform multi role in a single mission. It doesn't hurt much to free one pylon for a litening pod, especially when you say that fully loaded F35 is going to lose some amount (not quantified) stealth (which is almost equal to MMCRA characteristics).

    When we don't get the codes, how are we going to reprogram its radars and other avionics. As the unmodified radars and other avionics will be in the OEM spec, any Pak friendly like Saudi / UAE, if they buy F35, can release them to China / Pak. We all know that Pak pilots fly fighters of those countries. We will still be in the window shopper mode , if we go for F35 without any active participation in its development.

    Coming back to the proclaimed stealth / low observability of F35, please go thru the link

    I would like comment on the comments you have provided to your readers.

    1. We didn't say that Mirages did an excellent job. But it helped much and those words came across the borders
    As you told that you were in Ops Office, I would like to mention that it makes me to feel bad when that blogpost says "Interestingly, Messes were abuzz with war chatter amongst young officers. In retrospect, one wonders how Indian intelligence agencies failed to read any such signs, many weeks before the operation unfolded."

    2. As you are aware that AN/TPQ 37 predates EUMA, you must also be aware of problems associated with those radars.

    Sorry for these out-of-sync topics

  62. Ajay, I for one share many of your views and thoughts. I had found it quite illogical to go in for a Gen 4 aircraft when Gen 5 aircraft were coming into reality. Knowing our MOD, by the time we sign a deal, the day of Gen 5 aircraft would have come. It doesn't make sense to buy an aircraft which we plan to use for the next 20-30 years that wouldn't be revelent after 10 years.

    Even though I agree with you on the technical aspects of the aircraft, I would have to focus more on the political aspects of such a deal if it were to happen. Going in for a US aircraft would restrict our flexibility in deploying weapons from various countries and maybe even from Indian companies. The US isn't as flexiable as other countries when it comes to integrating weapons. Very few countries like Isreal have the clout to have their weapon systems integrated into aircraft. We still have a long way to go to reach that level of comfort with the US.

    With India not signing pacts such as CISMOA, LSA, etc, we are restricted in the amount of advanced weaponary we would have access to fromthe US, the case of C-130J being of particular note. Removing encrypted communications equipment from a transport plane is not thing. We can always get the equipment from another source and integrate it. I am more concerned on how not signing these pacts would affect other programmes such as the P8I, the MMRCA and other such weaponary. This is would also affect any F-35 deal. It would severly affect the effectivness and leathility of the weapon systems.

    Knowing the pace at while out MOD functions, canceling the MMRCA now would probably add another 10 years before we can conclude a deal for he F-35. Our MOD cannot thing more than 3-5 years in advance and the amoutn of time it takes to negotiate, is another thing all together.

  63. A very important factor which Col Shukla, highlighted is the fact that Mirage-2000s failed! Its indeed a fact that Mirage-2000 had sever shortcomings, as the LGB were not much accurate, and IAF actually resorted to carpet bombing in later pahse.(Transport aircrafts were modified for bombing missions).

    Secondly Delta Wings are supposed to be substantially better at supersonic speeds compared to other wing designs, (ground attack needs better sub sonic handling) and the most important of all, Cybersurg mentioned that "The MiG 21 was not much better" - I beg to differ but Mig-21 is actually the most successful example of Delta Wing design.

  64. Well, Mr. Shukla if the F-35 kills the FGFA instead of the AMCA, then I'm all for it. Go F-35 !

    It shall also have yet another beneficial byproduct in that the MRCA will not curtail any orders of the Tejas Mk.2. Recent reports suggest that Tejas Mk.2 will have a lengthened fuselage, and greater fuel capacity than the current Mk.1. So we're looking at an F-15 Blk 52 in the Mk.2, which can definitely play an MRCA's role. It won't be killed by a Gripen-NG or the Rafale.

    Once again : Go JSF !

  65. Thank You very much Mr. Shukla,

    Great response to all the people who didn't understand the article.

    Being someone who has not studied in English medium and didn't even have Higher level English as a subject until I went to college, I could understand your point.

    Hey guys I don't have any problem with you and Mr. Shukla is not my friend but by reading his post I could understand that he is concerned about future of our Air force and that's why he is taking all the pain of writing the article and answering your comments.

    I would only suggest you guys that you should respect his views and get into a healthy conversation instead of insulting him.

    After all he is giving us some information which we didn't have before and insulting someone who is giving us something good is not there in our culture I guess.

    Happy New year to all of you and thank you Mr Shukla for those kind words and the encouragement. I am reading your blog for over a year and half but didn't have the courage to write.

    Thanks for everything.

  66. Dear ajaiji,

    Part 1
    Discredit if you cannot disprove, is not restricted to Indians. Let me counter your argument with your own example of specialist vs jack of all trades.

    IMHO, you have forgotten the very reason why this tender was floated. Its purpose was to find replacements for our aged MIG21 'fighters'. More precisely, our air force was looking for a medium weight fighter to fill the gap between Light combat Aircraft and Heavy air dominance fighters (SU30-MKI and the FGFA underdevelopment and AMCA on the drawing boards). Our airforce was not looking for bomber.

    The LCA was supposed to be what the chinese and Pak J10 is now. A cheap fighter jet that can take to the air in numbers that will overwhelm the oponent. This is a less appealing and non glamourous strategy. But no one can deny the effectiveness. Luckily for china it is a communist state and Pakistan is too poor to afford the luxury of choices of features to be packed into the plane. In the LCA, we have invested in quality (atleast, we like to believe) instead of playing numbers game, I sincerly hope that LCA succeeds.

    IMHO The IAF believes that the multi-role capabilities of the planes in the tender are an added advantage. Like you say they are air-air fighters modified for air-land strike roles. Their air-air efficiency will determine how they cope with the numbers game played by 'ChiPak'.

  67. Part II
    DO we need a specialist bomber plane?
    Maybe, yes. If so we need to float another tender secifically for F-35. I am not an expert on defense. You are right to cite the deficiencies of our airforce during kargil war. But how does this requirement translate to scrapping a tender for IAF's true need for a air-air fighter?

    We are in joint development of a true 5th gen air-air fighter with russia. Maybe it will have some air-land capability. But since is is in development unlike the F35, it has the potential to evolve.Importantly, AMCA is still on the drawing boards. Unlike what happened with LCA, a clear cut goals/roles need to be defined. Maybe the pyramid of LCA/Mirage 2000 (numbers)-MMRCA(126+)-SU30-MKI---PAK-FA/AMCA looks tilted towards air-air battles. But i can use your own argument of specialist vs jack of all trades in this scenario. The primary requirement of the airforce is defense/attack within its realm, the air. Land attack is certanily not neglected because of our investments in multi-role fighters. Not sure where UCAV stand in this scenario.

    We shouldnt ask what the F35 can do but rather does it do things that we cannot do with our current stock of fighters or can be addressed by cheaper options like high altitude capable attack helicopters to support troops in kargil like environments. I am just and enthusiast not an expert. I humbly pose this question at you. Is F35 necessary for India's military future.

  68. Valient fight Ajay but victory is I think elusive.

    I still believe that the case for a strike aircraft is made more stongly than the case as to why that aircraft could only be the F-35.
    The latter appears to revolve around comparison with the F-35 rather than why these other aircraft could not act the role (for a better price). That the F-35 is a better strike aircraft does not make it the best choice.
    There is a side question here, how much is the F-35 worth? The argument here is a blank check and with F-35 unit cost pushing close to the F-22 that question must be addressed.

    The faults within the program are however poorly addressed, but then the US is having the same problem :.). The idea that the program will be fully 'derisked' with IOC shows that (with respect) perhaps the writer does not fully grasp how badly the F-35 program was designed, the IOC is not the safe zone it should be. For an example just look at the USMC, F-35B hits IOC in 2012, ok but FOC is slated for 2024, a full 12 years later! Anyone guess why?

    A very specific critisism is that it seems like double standards to take the F-35 at face value while critisising the Eurofighter as an unproven ground attack aircraft. The F-35 is also unproven (especially with the shockingly slow test scedule so far) and tags like 'world class' and 'most lethal' are aspiring too not earned, which is a big difference.

    As for simulations, it depends on who you listen too. RAND and Eurofighter's simulations are in stark contrast to Lockheeds and the USAF. Its a mixed bag and we dont know the details to make a fair assessment but we do know that the Chief of the USAF Air Combat Command Advanced Air Dominance Branch has sleepless nights over it...

    Finally a note on maintainance costs; the Navy estimated this year the F-35C to be 40% higher than legacy aircraft with 60% higher operational costs per hour of flight.

    Great Current Topic & Good Debate, Thankyou!

  69. Ajai,
    Your argument would be much stronger if you engaged some of the critics of the JSF such as Bill Sweetman (who is editor-in-chief of "Aviation Week"). Here's what Sweetman wrote on Nov. 2, 2010:

    "Defense Secretary Bob Gates will be told in a meeting today that development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will be further delayed, on top of the 13-month slippage that was disclosed in March ....

    The operations and support costs for the F-35 will be re-budgeted as 1.5 times the aircraft it replaces, more than twice what was originally hoped for and 50 percent more than the most recent projections."
    "A Shocking and Unexpected Development"

    This is Sweetman from Jan. 2009:

    "The JSF is unique in the degree of integration in its information systems. So far, for example, it has no open-standard transmit datalink, at least in stealth mode. The automated logistics system will continuously transmit operational information back to Fort Worth. Not only is it a coalition-optimized airplane, it's hard to see how it could be operated at all without direct, constant US support."
    "JSF--Why All the Fuss"

  70. Ajai,
    I recommend that you carefully study the U.S. Government Accountability Office's March 2010 report, "Joint Strike Fighter: Additional Costs and Delays Risk Not Meeting Warfighter Requirements on Time."

    The JSF program is in serious trouble.

  71. First of all, thank you for your detailed analysis. This must have taken lot of your time and I commend your efforts. Having praised you enough, lets dig into the crust. I DO NOT LIKE IT! as blunt as I was, let us see why? One of the important factor you have left out is 'cost of purchasing' and 'cost of maintaining these fighters' or what you aptly call now as 'life long cost'. Agreed that F-35 would be a remarkable strike a/c for the future, I do not see how IAF is going to maintain 2 fifth generation fighters, two 4+ generation fighters in the future (su-30mki and AMCA) plus LCA. You will be shelling out too much money on maintaining these expensive toys. Okay, let us look at CHINA. CHINA will NOT have a fifth generation fighter until 2025 at least. They have not perfected their J-10 fly by wire yet, (crashed recently in march, 2010 due of faulty fly by wire), I do not see them having perfected a/c manufacture for at least 2030. They are in the same plane as we are when it comes to building an a/c. Do not over glorify CHINESE as though they are going to a pull a generation 5 a/c by 2025 from a rabbits hat! I stand on my view, "have one top end 5th generation fighter, and many 4+ generation which are cheap". At war, you do not need IAF officers thinking twice of sending their a/c to the enemy territory thinking of the amount of money India would lose if the a/c is lost. And I bet this is one of the main consideration before launching any a/c. To me, FGFA, AMCA, LCA, GRIPEN, and the rest should do the trick! This way, I have created enough numbers in the IAF, and given a window of oppurtunity for AMCA. Yeah, GRIPEN! get the codes, get the know how of the avionics, and learn to build AMCA quickly. For heaven sake, ask DRDO not to meddle with ADA's plans. I rest my case.

    Again thank you Mr Shukla for the insight, Still the analysis is not convincing me to go for F-35. Check the f-35 cost (US pays -137, israel pays 135, canada would pay 250 million a pop) at "" and these cost are still preliminary.


  72. Dear Mr.Ajai,
    I indeed didn't read much through this "radical idea" of yours to be honest,apart from the nonsensical headline.

    First up,unlike Israel,India has NOT been offered a LOA from the US for the F35.
    So all this "analysis" is nothing but wishful/delusional thinking.

    Wait a second Saar,Lock Mart IS in the fray for MMRCA with its uber F16.
    AND in their presentations for MMRCA,they call it as a "stepping stone"/whatever to the F35.
    Wonder why any of the boffins who successfully manage to run a behemoth like Lockheed Martin didnt come up with such a "radical" idea?!

    And regarding your "asking the Airforce to go slow on inductions",to accommodate the delivery schedule of the F35, try saying a similar thing to the Army.
    Like, hey so what if the Pakistanians got the T80.We CAN get the T90 NOW,however, why dont you make do with the T72s for the time being,and wait further.
    Once the Russians manage to get the super advanced T95(whatever),we will induct THAT tank as a silver bullet in numbers.Pakistanians aint going to wage a full scale war against India anyway in the near future,and chances of a FULL SCALE tank battle too are almost NIL.

    Some MILITARY Strategy Shukla Sir !

    Your "radical" post in my simple understanding seems aimed at only increasing eyeballs to your blog.

    Also, please educate the Govt. of India, your former employer,as to highlight how big Idiots they are for demanding "FULL & DEEP ToT" for 4+ Gen fighters of MMRCA.

    There are real doubts about that happening for the Teens even as of NOW.
    And you propose asking for "FULL ToT" for F35 ?! :O

    Britain has set about rationalizing their order of F35 just recently...
    Initially, their requirement was of some 130+ F35s.
    It shouldnt fade from public memory, as to how they had to BEG for source codes.
    And you think US would come and give FULL ToT for F35 AND Licensed Productions rights to India for about 126 sumthn jets.

    Shree Obama managed to dance in India(yesterday).
    It doesn't mean that we can MAKE HIM DANCE to (y)our whims/fancies.
    Utterly IMPRACTICAL and senseless, this "scrap MMRCA thingy".

  73. But we are already committed to the Russian T-50 stealth fighter?How many types of stealth aircarft do we keep in our inventory?

  74. Good article Ajai but let me add a few things that bothers me can India at this stage or in furure afford a fighter like this? can we sign a deal which is like the CIMOS for intellegence sharing which will make us a fiddle in the US hand? Is it worth the amount paid? why should we not buy the B2 then (1bn per plane approx)? why should India not invest in Russian long range stealth bomber program? lot of Whys F-35 is a good plane then why is the US investing in the 6th Gen?

  75. Dear Shukla,

    The F-35 is all Bling-Bling , but remember maintaining its stealth is a costly and resource intensive process. Also US will never handover tech that may ease the maintenance part.
    The fact that in case of a confrontation PLA will be on the offensive is true, but do remember that the PLAAF will not be sitting around idle waiting for IAF to enter its airspace. Infact any hostilities will begin with a large scale cruise and air strikes. Thus we need fighters to respond and secure our air space first before going on the counter offensive. That brings the logistics into play as well, having a single fighter which can change role by changing load and not much else is certainly more advantageous than having 2 fighters one for each role and maintaining their logistics.
    Also stealth is F-35s USP and it can never stand up wo stealth against a wolfpack of MKKs anyday, so loading that as a bomb truck would only be possible after IAF gains air superiority above Tibet, which is very unlikely.


  76. there are few issues

    when you will get f-35(remember falling numbers)even when partner nations will not have them before 2018.

    can you get it without becoming US stooge(all shity agreements with them)
    cost of acquisition will be sky high

    what if us supplies the same in name of war on terror to pakistan
    (pakis are well known to extract max out of them).

    will they even transfer production lines.

    i am sorry to say that like previous one this article fails to clear various worries and make you look more on american pay role(lockmart India media consultant)

  77. Dont know whether the statement of Indians not being able to stand arguments was intended at stemming some of them cause in any situation one gets extreme views.

    On the article - seems from a perspective more a choice of doctrines - specialists (bombers, interceptors) versus generalists (multi role fighters)?

    There is no right answer and the airforces have veered from one doctrine to another.

    Which do we follow? A mix and agree on that as we get immobilising strike capability and the flexibility of multi-roles but is the F 35 the right answer?

    I still think not as the program is not proven, optimized for functioning in environments akin to US, will be stripped of critical technologies when they are shipped to india, will have to contend with Russian S400/S500 systems which China could acquire and why can't AMCA be given definite bomber charaterisistcs as its still in definition stage (if we are willing to wait 10 years for F35 why not another few for AMCA) or develop a definitive FFA based bomber?

    I would like to have a bomber in the fleet but have it developed from FGFA or the AMCA. One moght get to acquire the F35 but what about the critical technologies (which we wont get) and made for india (which we wont either)?

  78. Lots of errors, Firstly, the F-35 can carry 2*2000lbs bombs, however, people forget it can also carry 4*1000lbs bombs or 16*250lbs bombs all internally. not to mention it can carry the SDB, which can be well over 16 bombs as well, this together with Aim-120C-7/D and even Meteor, dont forget Meteor is on its way for integration on F-35 for willing customers. The following link has a good picture of its internal payload ability.You dont need a 2000lbs bomb for every mission, the video below shows a 2000lb bomb which can be used on a big target. most of the time the ideal payload is 250 to 500 lbs bombs.

    With good payload, aircraft like F-18SH, EF and Rafale manage to maintain an rcs lower than 1. So f-35 will do better even with external payload my guess below 0.5

    We do need a bomb truck, if its stealthier, well LPI, EF, Rafale, SH wont get close to targets without sending off all kinds alarms.

    Except for EUMA, there isnt much which infringes on our sovereignity, we also managed to get inspections on a time and place of our choosing, which i am sure doesnt include looking into every piece of equipment but lots of print data, 'inspections' last only a few days. we havent signed CISMOA and others, atleast not in present form, changes are certain to those agreements.

    With MRCA numbers likly to touch 200 to 300 or more, by ordering same amount of f-35 and related weaponry, we'll atleast get enough tot to have lot of the aircraft built in india itself. We'll ensure we can have the aircraft completly maintanable in india with spares being made locally.I am sure with enough buys going the US way with Harpoon, upto 16 C-17s or more, 12 P-8s, possibly tankers, more C-130Js, possibly tankers since boeing is in the fray, Sensor fused weapons, Paveways, rumours of Patriots, we will have enough leverage to demand good amount og offsets.

    I do think 250 F-35 to compliment our 250 FGFA will give us 500 of the deadliest birds on the planet,best fo both worlds. Good article, scrap mrca buy f-35, all 3 variants.

  79. Shuklaji,

    Could you please post the questions that you sent to LM, regarding F-35 and the gist of which you have incorporated into your blog. this will help us laymen get clarity.

    Thank you.

  80. Mr. Shukla, your intentions are correct in assuming that IAF needs a next generation strike fighter for close air support. But your protagonist for the same the Lockheed Martin F-35 is delusional, especially since the USAF itself will rely on A-10 for the role well into 2030, which is of an erstwhile generation.
    The Last time IAF went for a ground attack plane, it chose the Saab Viggen. Got screwed by the Americans and was left with crappy choice called the Jaguar which was not much more than HF-24 marut follow on would have been, yet IAF went for the foreign plane. These didn't do much for us in Kargil, did they?
    I understand the mirage2000 had to undergo ad hoc arrangements to do guided bombing, but never again had to resort to carpet bombing, Since the 7 twin-seaters were fitted with litening targetting pods with each twin seater accompanying 5 single-seaters to illuminate targets. it got the job done. Had it been adopted for the circumstance previously, it would have faced no problem to resort immediately to bombbing.But procuring Mirage2000 ain't gonna happen.

  81. AS I've quoted the facts, I'll quote my theory, I'll fabricate my theory aroung Tejas Airframe & capability.
    the HAL Tejas Mk-1 itself has 8 hard pionts, one for for litening target designator leaves 7 for weapons station, India has developed a 1000 lb bomb, LCA Tejas's Combat load is >8,400 lbs, assuming that we fight on the borders, we have for the aircraft a ferry range of 1500 km in mk1 configuration, at full fuel 3000 litres, no external fuel tanks there can be 6 LGB on 3 pylons
    2 R-77 or Astra missiles on wing tip and 2 R-73 or Python 5, If 5 aircraft in this configuration including a Twin-seater for the commander role make up a strike unit, it would ensure a good ground strike as well as air-defence role, when they retun fleet air-defence maintained by Su-30mki will keep Chinese J-10 / J-11 on their gaurd.

    Direcly in cometition with F-35, the Tejas in the mode I propose has 3 times as much ground Strike weapons compared to two bombs on F-35, the twin-seater could have a reconnasance pod in place of a LGB pylon to pick up forward command posts of PLA/Paki army to be obliterated in a follow on Strike with Tejas from the Same Squadron of 5 aircrafts carrying kh-59ME and in a heavier air defence configuration.

    Unlike the F-35 which relies on stealth to the Hilt. Tejas has a Balanced approach to defence Visual stealth, RAM coating and Variety of Missiles in the inventory.While the F-35 relies exclusively on american weapons which we have to import for every plane we import for life-time.

    Finally cost, U too concede that F-35 will have to carry extrnal stores to be effective, which compromises stealth and puts it back in Tejas league. Since its stealth is compromised, attriction even in 3:1 would cost us dear if we went for F-35 than for Tejas.

    Hope U respond

  82. now lets come to the f35.
    first point is what value addition does it bring to the indian armed forces.
    we know that for some time to come the GOI will now sign various agreements washington has put a pre-requisite. at least not in its current form (off cource no one knows it for sure but there are reports about it and which are not very approving of it).
    now suppose india does not sign these 'things' but is sold f35.
    firstly it defeats the procurement policy(of co-develope and ToT)
    you very brazenly said 'forget the software codes, you are not getting it'. does it make sense to fly a machine when you don't exactly know what it is?
    the air force will never be able to upgrade it. for every single thing they will have to look at americans. unlike russian planes which you can get upgraded from ukrain, software for israel, france, an assortment of weapons from different vendors.
    given here is the list of equipments which are stripped of c-130j.
    leaving the blackmail for the 'sign' part apart.
    the air force will need those sensitive instruments to optimally operate them. they will have to procure them from a third party. let us see how US reacts to it.
    same will be the case with f35.
    unless you 'sign' it or you'll get your plane but minus this,this and this. do you agree to that.
    or now will you advocate signing those 'agreements'
    anyway stealth just for the heck of carrying 2 bombs is not worth it. if we need a bomb truck, lets have a truck.
    it will just be a boy's ultimate toy.

  83. Heberian and Ajay,

    I am not advocating letting our guard down vis a vis China or against anybody. Heberian I do have access to all levels of Indian military thinking - more in the army and navy than IAF I confess. So I am not ignorant of AGPL relaities pun not intended.

    I am saying we must make ourselevs robust to the unpredictable environment by capability building for all eventualities. While we do that we must also look at the bigger picture.

    This is a discussion for another time and place but the brief argument is - Our planet will have 8 billion souls by 2040. At the current 6 billion population each person on average has an ecological footprint of 2 hectares. Obviously there are huge disparities - India's avg is about .8, China is 2 , US 10 and Europe 4 or 5. (Source David Attenborough's docu mentary 'How many people can live on planet Earth')Information Tech has shown the dispossessed how the rich live. Global warming is reducing the cake, its claimiants are increasing and those with less want more. i.e. recepie for conflict.

    Human conflict is between groups of peoples based on common identities - nations, religions, ethnicities, etc. History shows that religion is a powerful grouping and that is a 21st cen reality too.

    Based on that we have common current ground and past links with China as our cultures are similar -non abrahamic. We both face Islamist threats , therefore I believe we are natural allies. But just beacuse its natural it doesnt mean it will happen so ofcourse we must build our capabilities!

    But coming back to the F35, Ajai do you have any ideas on how IAF can achieve a strong strike capability even if they dont buy the F35. Also whats the cost angle of the F35?


  84. hmm... forceful... but you know what's the real problem we are debating f-35 while our air force is having problems puttin out enuf choppers in RED corridors or as the cag report showed maintain them properly...
    i guess we need to look at this aspect very carefully.. BIG TICKET ok bt wat abt the basic workhorses

  85. I love the idea of adding F-35s to the IAF collection. I think it'll be awesome.

    But I wonder why would the United States even allow the sale of such hi-tech equipment to the Indian military.
    We will have acquired (hopefully) the FGFA by 2020-2025, a machine comparable to the Raptor if not better. This challenges the technological edge that the USAF enjoys.
    And it does not represent a huge commercial opportunity for the American businesses anyways. The Indian military would purchase 120 (maybe 200) units compared to a projected order of 2400+ units for the domestic market.
    Moreover, the Americans (even though they may be allies) may not like to see such a powerful India. They are already having problems with the People's Republic and would definitely not want to deal with another emerging superpower.

  86. This comment has been removed by the author.

  87. Ajai:

    For a moment I am convinced that F-35 is the way to go. After thinking over it, it gets more convincing.

    However - F-35 is not being offered on platter. For F-35 LM asked us to buy F-16IN first.

    If that is the case your entire argument is not valid.

    I am confused!

  88. If we can purchase 126 Nos. of F-35, then obviously we can purchase 26 Nos. of F-35. So let our nation proceed first with the purchase of 26 Nos. of F-35. This shall not hinder the MMRCA and all the F-35 that are accrued now or later shall only add to our meager ground strike capabilities.

  89. Mr Shukla, here is my honest opnion,,,all the 5-6 birds or F35 are fancy phoren birds,, extremely expensive and of little impact,,what we really need right now to keep panda and pure people at bay is long range mbrl, artillery, large assortment of mizziiles and Advanced AD and delivery systems,improvement in our force infra and land infra,,we should invest billions in our own lca/mca/kaveri ,,not on these fancy items,,which are not much use other than for photu shows,,as they will drop like flies when they enter panda space,,,F35 will simply fly and comeback,,not much impact to them.....

  90. In light of the recent developments with obama's visit to India and him extending his arm in a fresh friendship to india,and asking to leave the cold war politics behind, I would love to see the F-35 instead of MRCA, ie. if its upto the mark!

  91. Whether Mr. Shukla makes a valid or invalid case for the F-35s, that is not important at this stage. It is a bit too late to make such a case when the IAF/MOD are set to select the winner of the M-MRCA deal in a few months. He should have made this case back in 2002-07 when the IAF was putting together its RFP for M-MRCA. Trying to switch to F-35 at this stage will only delay a program that has already been delayed by 10 years.

  92. Anonymous/Akshay @ 21:22

    I am not sure if Col. Shukla will think this is relevant, so I will keep it brief so that it meets the verbosness condition.

    1) I am in complete agreement that we should be prepared for the worst possibilities, especially with respect to China. We cannot ensure our millions have 3 square meals a day if another 1962 happens.

    2) Having seen some amount of suffering personally, I truly respect your vision about a planet with shared resources for all, and hopefully with less conflict. I am sure most soldiers (however well trained/skilled/experienced) will tell you that there is'nt much glory in war.

    3) However, coming to China, sadly the facts are different. They absolutely dont believe they have anything in common with anyone else. Historically, to them "All under heaven" was China..and if yor are outside the China circle, then you are a barbarian. "Heavens manadate" meant China was to rule everything.

    So it is very hard for them to accept that apart from Taoism, many aspects of Chinese culture has roots in India, right from the fantastic Shaolin art, to Guan Yin and Budhha. So the discerning observer will notice that now China is unofficially(and therefore officially) promoting promoting Taoism, especially in hinterland.

    There is laudable persistence to the way they go about achieving set goals, and that is something we as a nation sadly are not good at. Note the recent addition to their "core interests". They even coin terms like "splittism" to define Tibets aspirations to cultural identity.

    For China, the only thing that matters is China. China wants to dominate ASia and if possible the world, at any cost, but subtley if possible. They would love to eradicate the humiliations of the last century or so by ensuring the primacy of China. The only major irritants are Japan, the US and India. Someday, Russia will wake up to new core interests in their Priamurye region, because it was once "Outer Manchuria".

    To think that there will be convergence between India and China because of Islamic extremism etc is extremely wishful, and it will be unwise to not be prepared for the worst. I am sure your sources in our army are quite concerned about the vast build-up in Tibet and in the regions near Himachal and across Chushul etc. I am sure you are aware of the Aksai Chin (and Ladakh) terrain scale model near the town of Huangyangtan. Surely that was not built for flood relief planning.

    The Chinese are great students of history and strategy..and they really believe in knowing their enemy well and preparing for battle at a time and occassion of their choosing. How well do we know our enemy? How well can we manipluate the ground situation if a war is thrust on us?

    Coming back to the F35, I think Col. Shukla's case is extremely well presented. However, I don't agree with it simply because we wont ever be able to afford the F35 in sufficient numbers to dissuade China. They do have reasonably and increasingly sophisticated airpower in much larger number than us, some excellent and comprehensive "indigenous" airdefence systems in place and a logistics system that is way ahead of us. So I personally feel that even if we dont have the F35, and settle for the Gripen or the Typhoon, at least we will have some relief in numbers. And the Gripen and Typhoon are not so bad in any case :)

  93. didn't i send you comment about the policy of indian defense procurement for the last abotu 15 or so years...see the next step of Indigenization is alredy being taken...

  94. The F-35 is a good fighter and can very well complement the Su-30MKI.

    The Su-30MKI can fly air superiority missions, while the F-35 can perform strike missions.

    And the beauty is, the F-35 would not require a fighter escort all the time.

    But, the question is:

    Q. Can we trust the US?
    A. No (period)

    If tomorrow, we have to use nuclear weapons against a foe, would the US make no fuss about it if we use the F-35 to do so?

    BTW, a very nice post, I criticized you when you advocated it in the first place, but this post really changed my view from the performance and need perspective, though I still think that we can't trust the US.

  95. Ajai,
    There have been many comments since your last reply in this thread. Please update this comments thread with a response. Thanks.

  96. Fanboy, Fanboy!

    First of all, I'm offended at your absolutely uncalled for insult to my fellow country-men and -women. Clearly, you will believe what you want contrary to any and all evidence in front of you.

    Do you also believe the Australians cannot argue? Have you followed Air Power Australia's analyses of the F-35 and its dubious stealth characteristics?

    Oh, but I forget! Fanboy here is more intelligent than all the people sitting in think-tanks, the Government, the defence ministry, the Indian Air Force and anyone who thinks different from Col. Shukla. In your last post on this matter, you very conveniently chose not to respond to my arguments. You have also chosen not to respond to arguments from various other quarters cited by readers in links. I hope this time you will read the various reports your readers have pointed you to.

    Let's see the F-35 pass field trials in Leh and Jaisalmer. Oh Lord, make that happen soon to help this man emerge from his bubble.

    And of course, the Americans and the people running Lockheed Martin are all angels.

    No mention of turnaround time, maintenance costs and all other limitations of the F-35 here. A very partial analysis. Feels like I'm reading a Lockheed Martin publication.

  97. Oh, and since we have airbases in Assam, why do we even need long range Su-30s and Il-78 refuellers? A waste of money, that, too, Sir?

    Agreed, the IAF lacks in CAS and battlefield interdiction, but F-35 is not the answer to that, nor was MMRCA supposed to be. You shall see in the years to come (assuming you open your mind by then).

    I quote from one of your responses: "Have you seen the EUMA? No, you haven’t. Nobody has. But I can confirm to you that there is no such clause." How, exactly? Have YOU read it? Or do you work in the US Congress?

    Also, the IAF is not responsible for the Army's shorcomings in conflicts. If Pakistan could manage Kargil without using its Air Force and China didn't employ its own in the '62 war, our own Army should've been able to counter that by itself to sustain its claim of being one of the best. Like Alexander said, "Wars in mountains are not won in the air (China knows this, study its moves VERY CAREFULLY)."

  98. Nakul@01:34-

    Would you please tell me which Alexander you are quoting about mountain warfare?

    Thank you.

  99. Yet again, let me remind you that the F-35 basically does not fulfill the role that the IAF is looking for the MMRCA to do. F-35, so far, is known to be reasonably good only in the 'Attack' role. It is not suitable for the 'Bombing' aka 'Strike' role nor for the 'Interception' role. 'Air Superiority' and 'Air Dominance' are nowhere. The MR in MMRCA stands for Multi-Role. Even to fulfill the role of CAS and interdiction, it is only wise to get an aircraft that can also successfully conduct strikes (which, btw, imho is A-10).

    Your case against the Mirage-2000 is pointless as almost no fighter aircraft can deal with precision strikes in terrains as undulating as the Himalayas. Attack Helicopters are best suited for that role except that they cannot operate at Himalayan altitudes. I doubt if the F-35 can, too, in that thin air with its weak engine.

    Also, when not employing stealth in order to have increased payload, the F-35 is as easy to shoot down as a wild duck, with its lack of high speed and altitude operability. And when playing stealth with a severely limited payload, it's as good as a low flying (much cheaper) 'copter.

    And I'm not even mentioning the political hassles with the US.

  100. Well I think for future run UCAV's will be more productive for close air support & ground attack missions. Specially the stealth ones...the SAM's are a big problems for low flying Drones but, I think stealth & advance measures & large numbers can cope with it... And i think Air Force must stress more on UCAV's more than on AMCA!!!!... Well I myself am a pilot & I know any pilots reading this would not appreciate, but!!!! hehe... its more productive & will be less burden for the tax payers!!!

  101. @Heberian: An Alexander who commented on this very post on the 7th of November.

  102. Well done Ajai.
    I think your comments on whether the India Aerospace industry is in the terminal stages of obsolescence is worth thinking about.

  103. LHM

    Respected Sir,

    My humble two bits. Wd appreciate an opinion. The US has always allied with Pakistan. It didn't help us much even during the 1962 China war.

    Some articles I read suggest it's because Pakistan is geographically connected to both the Islamic countries of the middle east and to oil rich former Soviet countries like Kazhakstan, Turkmenistan etc. Makes perfect business sense.

    And now apparently, Afghanistan has trillion dollar reserves of rare earth metals the US really needs for its economy. Pakistan is the easiest port to export that produce.

    I'm beginning to believe the US will never be a steady ally. They need Pakistan more than it needs them. And China has treasury bills worth probably half the US economy.

    India has been a fool not to have cultivated our Asian neighbours. We had ancient cultural links with almost all of them. Many could help our defense industry.

    Beyond Singapore, Japan, Korea and the like. What prevents us from collaborating with say Ukraine or Chezckoslovakia to build tanks or planes. They have the know how and will offer it cheaper and more willingly than Russia. Or Iran? They hate the Taliban, only tolerate Pakistan and have a fine military industry

    I've also been wondering sir. If China can imitate a Sukhoi and make a JF 10, why can't we? Why do we spend years re-inventing the wheel, when there's a faster way? We've worked under embargoes before - what's a few more, especially when we are a growing economic power?

    I'm thinking - India had to make its own space. With its own rules. Everyone else will just pamper our egos. They won't let us win the wars we must.

  104. Sir, No doubt you have an excellent study of all the facts of requierment of MMRCA and futuristic Indian air force.

    as of Now F-35 is not a proven fighter and not is used in afgan or gulf war that we blindly support is puechase and scrappeing the MMRCA.

    MMRCA technically is not much far behind the 5th gen fighters but maxm tech can closely compared with these MMRCA. AS far as studies are concerned the LCA compared to 85% to the F22 and is almost the same category of eurofighter or the rafale. LCA is at very nitial stageas as the other fighter are but these comparision are done only in a real war as how well the fighter is handeled and performed in the war.
    Mirage performed admireably well in kargil and that supported the ground forces.

    Only for Chinese attack we can think to buy F-35 but the 5th gen fighter we are already devloping our own fighter with russia.

    pakistan always had better equipmnt than india but defeted every time.


  106. Read the following article and then decide how is F-35:

  107. Mr Shukla, your argument is compelling but with a few holes. Firsty, IAF was very much there and effective in Kargil. Several important targets were taken out by IAF facilitating the army's operations. Further, While the F-35 would be a great buy despite ts cost and technology transfer issues. The US was reluctant to share its technology eve with its poodle the UK. India has already entered a joint development deal for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) with Russia, so the stealth space is already spoken for. FGFA will have a respectable stealthy strike capability. the S-300 and ts clones are not invincible and can be dealt with. IAF has proven to be the world's most innovative Air Force since its formation in 1932. This also includes tactical innovation to defeat superior equipment or technological shortcomings in its own equipment( proven in the past in 1941-4 Burma Campaign, 1947-48 War in J&K, 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak Wars and 1999 Kargil). Do not doubt the ability of the IAF to deal effectively with a foe fielding superior equipment.

  108. commenting "In fact, procurements like the F-35, which will strengthen the US-India defence relationship, will facilitate technology inflows that are needed for giving the LCA/AMCA Gen-5 characteristics"
    How much of all that have happened with the big ticket p-8i, C-130, C-17 etc ?
    The Fly-away and Licensed production is not the way aeronautical bases are built through an RFP which is balanced and not looking for the "Delight factor" and being the largest importer of technology we so proudly like to show-off about

    Remember the good old man-machine mix but having more control of what you own , develop and fly them be an owner of "most mustang" type of guzzlers which you flaunt that you own but rarely ever have the money or wherewithal to run or maint.


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