US Air Force’s F-35 jets make historic debut at Aero India 2023

The United States Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters, the multirole F-35A Lightning II and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, on Monday, landed on Indian soil for the first time to take part in Aero India-2023 at the Yelahanka airbase, with the development turning heads at the biennial airshow where around 100 countries are represented and more than five lakh visitors are expected.

The two stealth fighters flew to India from the Hill Air Force Base in Utah and Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska, US officials said. One of them will take part in the flying demonstration, while the other will be on static display.

“In addition to the F-35, an F-16 Fighting Falcon duo will conduct daily aerial demonstrations from February 13-17, showcasing the capability of one of the USAF’s leading fighter jets. On static display, the F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet are multirole fighters,” the US consulate general Chennai said in a statement.

It quoted Major General Julian C Cheater, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, as saying, “The F-35 represents the leading edge of US fighter technology. Aero India is an ideal forum to showcase the most advanced, capable, lethal, and interoperable weapons systems the US has to offer. This system and others are designed to penetrate and defeat advanced adversary air defences.”

India, however, plans to develop its own fifth-generation fighter, the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA), with design, development and prototypes likely to cost around ₹15,000 crore. The Indian Air Force’s modernisation map envisages the deployment of around 120 stealth fighters (six squadrons) from 2032 onwards.

There is a possibility of equipping AMCA with directed energy weapons, superior anti-missile systems, advanced missile approach warning systems and teaming it with unmanned systems, as previously reported by HT.

India was earlier planning to co-develop a stealth fighter with Russia, but the proposed multi-billion dollar fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) project was abandoned after IAF expressed strong reservations about the project due to the high cost and issues related to technology transfer.

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