Is India really getting ready to buy the F-35?
Indian media reported back in 2018 that the Indian Air Force has asked Lockheed Martin to brief it on the capabilities of the F-35. Yet it’s not clear if this is true, or even whether an F-35 is on the horizon.
“The IAF top brass is formally requesting for a classified briefing by the F-35’s prime builder, Lockheed Martin, on the capabilities of the sophisticated, fifth-generation fighter developed under the US Joint Strike Fighter program,” claims the Indian publication Business Standard.
Lockheed Martin directed questions about this to the U.S. government. The U.S. Department of Defense’s F-35 Joint Program Office told The National Interest that it was unaware of any request for a briefing by the Indian government. Had the request been made, it seems likely the Joint Program Office—the hub of the F-35 project—would have been aware.
If the reports aren’t true, it wouldn’t be the first time—Indian media claimed in January that Lockheed Martin had proposed manufacturing the F-35 in India.
“However, it appears that the story was the result of confusion between discussion on the F-35 and the company’s [Lockheed Martin’s] well-publicized bid to move its F-16 line to India,” reported Defense News.
So is India genuinely interested in acquiring an American stealth fighter? “I doubt an F-35 purchase would happen soon for a number of reasons,” says Timothy Hoyt, who co-chairs the U.S. Naval War College’s Indian Ocean Regional Studies Group.