Asia (bbabo.net), - The United States brought its most advanced F-35 fighter jet to India for the first time, along with F-16 multi-role fighters, F/A-18 Super Hornets and B-1B bombers, as Washington hopes to poach the New Delhi, moving it away from the traditional arms supplier for the South Asian giant - Russia.
India, desperate to modernize its fleet of Soviet-era jet fighters to increase its air power, is worried about delays in deliveries from Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine and is facing pressure from the US to distance itself from Moscow, Western commentators say.
The U.S. delegation to the week-long Aero India 2023 Expo in Bangalore, which ends this Friday, is the largest in the aerospace event's 27-year history and "highlights the growing strategic relationship between the United States and India," ABC News reported today, Feb. 17 .
In contrast, Russia, India's largest arms supplier since the Soviet Union, had a "nominal presence" at the exhibition, the publication claims.
Rosoboronexport organized a joint stand with the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and the Almaz-Antey Concern, where miniature models of aircraft, radars and tanks were presented. In previous Aero India shows, Rosoboronexport has taken more center stage, although Russia hasn't brought its fighter jet to Bangalore for a decade after India began considering acquiring more combat vehicles from Europe and the US.
Boeing with its F / A-18 Super Hornets has already entered the race to supply fighters for the second aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy. Also offered is the F-21 from the American corporation Lockheed Martin (modernized fighter F-16V Block 70/72), designed specifically for India.
India's offer to external partners to purchase 114 multi-role fighter jets for its Air Force worth $29 billion has been under consideration for the past five years, in parallel with the country's mounting tensions with China and Pakistan.
According to an Indian Air Force source, the F-35 is not being considered by New Delhi "at the moment," but the demonstration of two F-35s at Aero India for the first time was a sign of the South Asian power's growing strategic potential and its importance to the United States, ABC News notes.
According to Angad Singh, an independent defense analyst, it was "not a publicity stunt" but rather a signal of the importance of bilateral relations in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Even if the sale of arms is not the cornerstone of the relationship, there is cooperation and interaction at the military level between India and the United States,” he added.
The United States is known to be very selective about the countries it allows to buy F-35s.
Asked if this fifth-generation combat vehicle would be offered to India, Rear Admiral Michael L. Baker, military attaché at the US Embassy in India, said New Delhi was in the "very early stage" of considering whether it needed this plane.
The US has approved more than $8.7 billion worth of arms sales to India over the past six years, including transport aircraft, Apache, Chinook and MH-60 helicopters, missiles, air defense systems, naval guns and the P-8I Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft.
The tender for the supply of 114 fighter jets to the Indian Air Force, under which Russia proposes to produce MiG-35 aircraft at Indian facilities, is being postponed, but remains on the agenda. This, as bbabo.net reported, was announced to journalists on February 14 by the head of the UAC, Yuri Slyusar, at the aerospace exhibition Aero India - 2023.
In November 2021, it became known that the Indian side suspended participation in the program to create the first domestic fifth-generation fighter FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) based on the Russian Su-57. It was explained that the program was suspended "until the adoption of the Su-57 by the Russian Armed Forces."