On the eve of Aero India 2021, the United States of America has offered the Indian Air Force three of its frontline fighter planes: the F-18, the F-15 and the F-21, the newer version of the F-16.
At a briefing where the US Charge d’affaires Don Heflin, deputy undersecretary of the air force Kelli Seybolt and lieutenant general David Krumm of the US air force were present, the message was clear: India was a major defence partner of the US and both countries would continue to work together to strengthen the Asia Pacific, regardless of whether which party was in power.
Yes, Atmanirbhar Bharat looked at indigenisation, US officials acknowledged but added that India would need key capability development. And the relationship wasn’t just about buying-selling or even manufacturing. It is about joint exercises and the strategic agreements like LEMOA or COMCASA and more recently, BECA that both sides have put together. Also, the possibility of the Americans making US fighters in India– to help the Make in India process– is there.
Asked about the purchase by India of the Russian S-400 air-defence system, the Americans said that they were aware of the acquisition, but while friends are urged not to go to Moscow for weapons, it is dealt with on a case by case basis. The Americans did not speak of any sanctions against India.
The US will field the B1-B supersonic heavy bomber during the inaugural ceremony tomorrow. It will do a fly-by during the ceremony. The presence of the B1 will be a first: it will be the first time an American air force bomber will touch down on Indian soil.