Tuesday, November 08, 2011

COLUMN | F-35: Should India Really Ride The Lightning?

By Mihir Shah
& Aditya Mandrekar

The recent statement by a United States Department of Defence official, that the US would be willing to discuss a possible sale of the F-35 Lightning II to India, or even consider bringing India into the ambitious programme as a partner, has generated a lot of attention in
the Indian media. While this is not the first time the F-35 has been offered to India, the timing of this fresh pitch is interesting. Coming six months after the two American contenders vying for the lucrative Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract -- the F-16 and F/A-18 -- failed to make the Indian Air Force (IAF) shortlist, and just days before the bids by EADS Cassidian and Dassault were opened, many perceive this as an attempt by the US and Lockheed-Martin to work themselves back into the equation. Sections of the Indian news media – both print and electronic – have called for the F-35's consideration in the MMRCA tender itself (and some have called for an outright purchase) resulting in a new round of teeth-gnashing over a topic that has stretched over a decade. All things considered, here's why we don't think the F-35 for India is a very good idea.

To be clear, there is no doubt that the F-35 will meet accuracy and modernity standards required from any new-generation military equipment. But does it provide true bang-for-buck that the Indian Air Force needs? The way we see it, not really.

The Lightning II can barely be called a “medium weight” aircraft – the only aircraft heavier than it in the MMRCA competition was the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Now couple this with the fact that its payload just about matches that of the Tejas, and you start to wonder whether it's such a good fit for the IAF. Next, even if it is advertised as a “multirole” aircraft, its capability on the aerial warfare front is still seriously suspect. At present the best it can do is carry four air-to-air missiles internally, less than half the capability of either the Typhoon or Rafale. It cannot operate without air cover as it does not possess a swing-role capability. Also, its stealth is not all-aspect like the F-22’s, and so it cannot be relied upon to make its way in and out of enemy territory unassisted.

Additionally, the F-35 features a significantly smaller combat radius than either MMRCA finalist when on internal fuel and weapons (which also means a smaller payload due to restrictions on space available). There is no official mention yet about external fuel tanks on the F-35, and the moment you hang weapons on external pylons, you can kiss both range and stealth goodbye. There are doubts, too, about its aerodynamic capabilities. The aircraft features thrust-to-weight ratio and wing loading figures poorer than those of any contemporary fighter. One wonders how well it would perform in the key strike role in the thin air over the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau – the likely setting of any future India-China conflict.

There is also an issue that seems minor at first sight, but could throw a spanner in procurement. The IAF has, over the last two decades, gravitated towards two-man crews for any aircraft that will be involved in strike roles beyond close air support. This was highlighted in the Kargil War when IAF Mirages had to perform precision bombing tasks at high altitude while avoiding air defences, staying within the border and keeping an eye on possible interception. It is the reason why a third of the MMRCA batch is touted to comprise tandem-seaters just as all the new Jaguars have been. The lack of a two-seat F-35 means that not only will the IAF not get what it wants for deep penetration strike roles, but it means that any pilot training will have to be done on expensive simulators only.

Another problem is the complexity of the design itself and the fact that many of its technologies are radically new and untried. The USAF is learning the hard way that the F-22’s radar absorbing skin (which the F-35 also uses) is highly vulnerable to rain and dust, and very expensive and difficult to maintain. Advertised as having the computing power of two Cray supercomputers, it is so complex that it can only fly for an average of 1.7 hours before suffering a critical failure. Even six years after it entered service, new and potentially fatal problems continue to surface with alarming regularity. It isn’t too hard to guess how the F-35, whose design borrows heavily from that of the F-22 and even outclasses it in certain aspects, will fare in this regard.

If that wasn't bad enough, it gets worse once we start talking about timelines and costs. As of today, the F-35 (without development costs included) is priced at the same level as the Eurofighter and the Rafale. But while the latter two are combat proven and available today (in a fashion), the Lightning II won't be for a decade. Going by past experience, further schedule slippages and cost overruns look like a distinct possibility. Now, factor in the additional uncertainty created by the possible need to develop a tandem-seat version for the IAF alone, and one quickly begins to see why any optimism regarding timelines and costs could be highly misplaced. In the midst of all these arguments and calculations, the main reason why new medium fighters are being bought is often forgotten: the IAF needs new aircraft as fast as possible to shore up numbers and make up for the rapid obsolescence of a large portion of its fleet, and each delay only serves to make an already precarious situation worse. It is already taking a significant risk with the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) as it is. What is the point of bringing more uncertainty into the equation now, that too to procure a fighter that offers little in addition to low-observability?

And speaking of low-observability, how much will it cost to maintain the stealth features, especially in the hazy, dusty conditions of India? For that matter, will the IAF even get an aircraft that is as stealthy as the ones the US and UK operate? Will it get all the avionics, even watered down versions? The US is reluctant today to provide the UK, the only level-1 partner in the project, with full access to the aircraft’s source code. What are the chances of India getting a better deal?

Finally, there is one additional issue that bears examination in this debate, and that is how procuring the F-35 will affect the indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project. Because of the similar roles the two aircraft shall be expected to fulfil, there is a distinct possibility that purchasing the F-35 will kill the AMCA for good, with disastrous long-term consequences. Detractors may argue that the AMCA is nowhere close to completion, and may be delayed by years just like the Tejas has been. That may well be the case, but if the AMCA does suffer inordinate delays, India can always place a future order for an F-35 with many of its niggles hopefully sorted out. There is little reason to make that call now, when the AMCA is still a design on paper.

Having said all that, one can imagine a few scenarios in which the F-35, even with all its problems, would serve a useful purpose in the IAF. For years, the IAF maintained a handful of high-maintenance MiG-25R Foxbats for a niche profile: reconnaissance of enemy territory, out of reach of interceptors or SAMs. Likewise, the IAF could consider one or two squadrons of the Lightning II, for the simple purpose of “kicking the door down” in the first few days of the war, taking out vital air defence nodes, logistics nodes, or AEW&C and tanker aircraft before handing over the heavy lifting to other aircraft that can announce their presence.

And yet, the reason this may turn out to be a bad idea is that in the same way the MiG-25 was replaced not by another aircraft but an indirect replacement – spy satellites – the F-35's role can be performed not by another aircraft, but by missiles. We already operate the ground-launched BrahMos. The air-launched version should be available within the next few years, giving us a 300-km reach anywhere beyond its launch point. Throw the Shaurya into the mix and suddenly we can hit targets deep inside enemy territory without having to risk aircraft or pilots. Granted, missiles cannot do everything an aircraft can but even if cruise missiles provide partial coverage, the costs in maintaining a squadron’s worth of special aircraft and pilots cannot be justified.

This is not to suggest that the F-35 Lightning II is a turkey, or that the US military is making a humongous blunder in buying it. But in the Indian context, we see little rationale behind spending large sums of money today on something that will only arrive a decade from now at the very best, be a difficult fit in our existing doctrine as well as punch a hole in our finances. If Lightning should strike our enemies, we would rather it not have our tricoloured roundels on it.

MIHIR SHAH is a US-based engineer who tracks aerospace issues closely. He has contributed before to Livefist and Pragati magazine. He works at a firm specialising in energy efficiency consulting.

ADITYA MANDREKAR is an electrical and avionic systems engineer who currently writes embedded software for an electronics company in the UK.

This column reflects the personal & independent views of the contributing columnists | Photo / Lockheed-Martin


Anonymous said...

Seriously Shiv,

This is one of the least informative article I have ever read. The internet is littered with anti-JSF propaganda articles by carlo kopp and bill sweetman and pro jsf trolling by jsf fanboys. This article belongs to the former. What was needed was a neutral view of project timeline, cost and capability analysis using official US DoD reports, selected across the JSF project timeline. I hope your blog features such an article in the future.



Mirza said...

Well said.

Animesh said...

Wow, excellent article, I am very much of the same view. Since, F-35 is facing criticism back home in US, no vital points in bringing it in here. Also we don't know how F-35 will fare against J-20 which is been touted as F-22 killer. Also one important thing is to note is that all 5th generation fighter development projects are being run in Asia only except U.S. whether it is ATD from Japan or South Korean Fighter but fate of South Korean fighter is unknown.

Anonymous said...

Yes , india should go for F-35 atleast 2 - 4 sqn , but for that no need to cancel mmrca . mmrca is very important for IAF to maintain sqn strength .

joydeep ghosh said...

@ Mihir & Aditya & Shiv

Thanks for bringing out the flaws in F-35. My assertions are very much the same as yours. The F-35 is being dangled to scuttle the AMCA project.

Given the fact that F-35 is predominantly a ground attack aircraft, best suited to blunt the initial advance of enemy troops (read advance by Pakistan's Mangla or Multan based corps). But even in that context it looks like 'Using a Sword to Cut Vegetables'.

Even to think that F-35 can even take on the heavy fighters of our other immediate adversary (Read China with its J20 across the Himalayas) is too much of an ask.

Sharing of full ToT, source codes aside we still cant trust the US even if we keep 2 squadrons at our disposal. Given the fact that India has not signed CISMOA, BECA, and other agreements with US, the already bought US systems (C-17 & C-130J) lack some crucial systems that would have made the difference during emergency.

There is a saying in Hindi 'Doodh ka Jala Chaas Bhi Phook ke Pita Hai'. India has suffered from US sanctions a lot, arm twisting us just for the fact that they have something we dont have and refused us the capability for long (read LCA).

So there is no guarantee that US will not play spoilsport on issues of where and whether India can use these systems owing to Indias support for regime it is against (read Iran, Burma).

So at best we should keep ourselves at arms length from the carrot of JSF F-35. Lets focus on the developing the 3 5th generation fighters, namely FGFA (30 ton plus), AMCA (20 ton plus), and LCA Mk3 (10 ton pus).

Awaiting your response


Joydeep Ghosh

Shantanu said...

Well said Mihir and Aditya.

In one of the earlier posts I remember, I had commented that if India gets hold of F-35 what would stop US from selling the same to Pakistan.

Do we really want a plane in our arsenal of which our adversary would be aware of its strength and weaknesses.


Ravi Khanna said...

no need to go with f-35 waste of money and fighters with less missiles is not a fighter. if we induct aesa radar in su 30mki no need of the f-35 lightening. the main part of the fighters are radar, stealth and missiles. less missiles more venerability of damage. more missiles attached to fighters got more teeth and heavy payload will add the fighters big game changers in future because now missiles are playing a game changer bvr is one of the best example.

Anonymous said...

Fairly sound reasoning.

As always we should look at what the system brings to the table and where it fits into our requirements.

As a fighter not nearly as nimble as needed to have even chances in a fur ball.
As a mud mover not nearly the tonnage we would like in a single sortie.
As a stealth fighter not nearly as stealthy to survive on stealth alone.
As a technological wonder not nearly as radical as can not be achieved through upgrades to existing 4.5+ aircraft.

Having said that if the IAF can afford a specialist for dispersed base operations then the F-35B may make sense.

Most likely fit of this platform in our forces would again be the F-35B on INS Vikramidtya and IAC1 with the naval LCA.The -29ks, and naval mmrca equivalent moving on to the larger IAC2.

For the US this is an F-16 replacement complementing the F-22 for the USAF and the F/A-18E/F for the USN.

Secondly the numbers that the USAF will acquire will hardly compare what the IAF and IN put together can purchase.
The US is likely going to engage in expeditionary warfare with no real threat of contested airspace.

We are likely to be defending our airspace from air superiority types.

Conclusion, at best we can have a look at the F-35 5-10 years down the line and that too to equip our carriers with a VTOL, a capacity that we are loosing once the SHARs have all crashed,oops I meant retired!

Now if on the other hand the F-22 was on offer......
Wishful thinking again? Yeah well for air and ground tasks the IAF should focus on the SU-30MKI/MMRCA HI-LO combo and for stealth purposes continue with the FGFA/AMCA hopefully successfully tweaking the first and getting the second off the board and into the air.

Leave the JSF as the bait we nearly took.

Anonymous said...

Instead of getting false35 we can invest the money for true amca project we sure we will get in 2020 our own 5g fighter and we get more R&D facility

Rajeev said...

Agree with the article 100%. The only point missing is the ToT. With either Eurofighter and Rafale, India will get a significant ToT, but with F35 there will be no ToT, other than making bolts and nuts that we do right now with MKI.

Aravind said...

1.Highly upgraded
Su30mki(ASEA,anti-radar paints,adv avionics,etc).

2.Procurement of FGFA which is considered as best choice with coast and maintenance (mainly to with stand indian subcontinental conditions ) in its class (5th gen fighter) which is "tailor made for IAF requirements".

3.Procurement MMRCA with relevant TOT,Source codes,avionics&etc.

4.Huge no.of Rapid deployment & Assted development of LCA 1,2.

5.With abv mentions-it is easy to research,develop&produce

This 5 steps is more than enough
to make IAF a strong&versatile force among the world in near future.

So there is no need even to discuss
F-35 for india
(Generally its known tat buying a US weapons means scraping relevant indigenous development.)

Abhishek Guha Thakurta said...

is this anything new we get to hear from this article.Any one who is informed about the current MMRCA condition and the arm twisting going on ..knows f-35 is there to puncture a hole.

Anonymous said...

frankly speaking nooooooooo it doesn't make any sense to have 2 types of 5th fighter !!! india should go for either typhoon or rafale. i m really amazed why in last tym all thing is just changed

real bharitye jai hindi

Anonymous said...

Ignore this F-35. Go with Rafale. It would be a nightmare to deal with 4 countries airframer partners, and another 4 engine partners.

Anonymous said...

Hi everybody,

Very sound analysis... we always come back to the fundamental of designing an airframe: optimised thrust/weight ratio, brillant acceleration, cutting agility and maneuverability, high payload and large combat radius...

If you miss any of those specifications from the very begining, it is always extremely costly and time consuming to make any platform upgrade..

Anonymous said...


Other analysts have pointed out that they F35 is tuned for ground attack and yet they have latter pitch F35 for taking on J20. When they say that, you have to ask why and the obvious answer is that J20 can't be matched when it fly. So the only way to take on 5th Gen air superiority fighters is to defeat them in ground. I hope you get the facts correct when you comment about asking too much.

Other, if you think this comment is a pun, please don't.

Anonymous said...

I do not see the F-35 as a need for the IAF right now, this is new technology which is untried and is expensive to maintain.

We know that the IAF maintenance record is questionable.

Also the US never shares it's military secrets, we can get an F-35 but, we will still get a lightweight version.

Like wise would India sell a AMCA or Tejas with all the goodies included to other countries? I think not.

Anonymous said...

Why cry for F-35 if we can get and use the sensors?

Anonymous said...

Luv u man... Well said..!!
Never dream of F35 coz of almighty(as they say) F22. It is just a branded crap.. They wil never provid thos techs in F25. Its a versn for arm sale nly, US good income source..
If they realy wanna help us., (as they trin to do by 123agrment, train makin proposal etc.. Etc) .. Let'em Give explnsn for blockade for ISRO othr defnse compnz coz of our nuk tst..
Yeah.. Its now the time of india to raise.. Then they want all that...
We hav already ordrd 250 FGFAs.. Dont want there craps which wil nevr prov stealth in harsh indian air..(even F22 took off coz of dusty hurcane nearby)

Anonymous said...

Fully agree with Anon@9.44 am.

This is pseudo technical and is quite bizzare in some places.

To talk of payload equivlance by comparing F-35 to Tejas, then to make a sweeping statement about suspect ariel warefare capabilities with no supporting, much less defining what is swing role et all is dowright baloney.

Authors are more reasonable and informed on the non technical part of the article that talk about twin seat preference, reliance on a 2nd program that is evolving is worth a read.

Finally, the talk parcelling out aircarft role to missile cover and Brahmos is nuts...much less consider Satellite recon as an alternative to arial recon.

Good luck to your blog...if you post such stuff

Anonymous said...

Good post came at a very good time.
Currently placing an order of F-35 is of no use to India. At any cost, we cannot get the first F-35
before 2020.If it proves worthy, we can buy for our future aircraft carriers, after some years, not now. Agreed with you in all the aspects.

Mr. Ra said...

Yes, to Tejas variants, Su-30 MKI variants, MMRCA, T-50, FGFA & AMCA.

No, to F-35.

However for two squadrons, F-35 shall be reviewed every fifth year till they become defunct.

Anonymous said...

This is amateurish write up. A poor reproduction of stuff on the net.

Mishu said...

Mishu. The JSF has better or comparable range in stealth configuration than a 4th generation a/c with external droptanks. If necessary it can be equipped with droptanks to be jettisoned before coming within range of enemy radar. It is also possible to carry 8 Sidewinders externally. Biggest mistake is to compare a JSF with an ordinary fighter. It is not. It is a superior flying sensor. Fully integrated and therefore exactly what the IAF needs.

Anonymous said...

Of all the comments here, one aspect sorely missing is the backbone which the US has to use machines like JSF.

My personal argument is that, JSF's selling point is not it's stealth. It is JSF's ability to integrate into the US/NATO backbone. Stealth is just an additional feature. Remember it is built to US spec, to integrate on to US Network.

Where is India's network to integrate such a machine?

It is pointless having a sharp sword, if you are blindfolded! How much is JSF useful if China manages to develop ECM's for AIM-120's? or strong local defence against PGMs?

I would invest money into systems which cripple Pak/Chinese network, C3I etc. ECM, UAV's deceptions etc.

Once your radar is down, even Mig21's will give a tough time!

Anonymous said...

just would like to point out 1 thing..thin air is bad for choppers as their rotors are unable to generate lift..for jets the thinner ihe air(till a certain point) the better the flight..get ur facts right plz

Anonymous said...

good analysis. We should spend the money for developing AMCA. India should also consider to join in the Russian project of developing long range bomber PAK-DA.

Pawan said...

I think
This is very good article. We need to go for best Tech available but value for money is such a proposition that developing economy like ours can hardly afford.

Anonymous said...

IAF has already planned induction of 214 Sukhoi 50s stealth fighters. Cost is the inhibiting factor once that is sorted out either Typhoon or Rafale will be chosen as the MMRCA .AMCA is only a paper plane but if it becomes a reality then F-35 wont have the slightest chance of making it to India. This article is very informative.

Anonymous said...

Incomplete article totally...no mention of the PRICE of the F-35...that is the biggest factor.

captainjohann said...

This offer is direct result of waning American power and lack of resources to maintain that power.The following link about the cost of the plane is informative.
This offer is also directed against the strategic concessions which Russians give to India while US always has to look at the views of China and Pakistan as the former holds most of its debt.

Anonymous said...

The US arm twisted Israel to back off from offering a joint venture developed SAAB.It had similarly scuttled Israels own development of the LAVI, which was an improved version of the F16 during the 80s.
The Tejas and F35 in comparison sounds too lame to be believed...like blind faith.But a super strategy could be tie up of components of the PAK-FGA with israels IAI.They are the worlds most battle proven electronics consumers, whom the Chinese are dying to get back as development partners.Its basically the same kind of deep rooted politics rather than technological capability that has kept the Tejas going on for more than 2 decades.Our foreign policy makers had forced the IAF to remove the refuelling probes from the Mirage 2000s, and as time went by we spent a ton of money on getting it back on.Indians being good at bargaining, it makes sense to keep the Americans on their toes, but things should not be like 1962, when Nehru ignored John.F.Kennedys overtures at being close and ended up crying for help to the americans when the chinese attacked.The Americans are a good bet in the wrong run, but the Israelis the Indias best bet for development partnership.Mullahs be damned!

Anonymous said...

US made aircrafts are tracked in real time with GPS (the invisible leash made in USA).

Anonymous said...

Another analytical snooze fest with a whole lot of big $5 words but very little said.

India, particularly the Indian Navy would be best suited for the JSF because it is still buildings it carriers and has the JSF would give the most lethal platform money can buy.

I think India should hold off on the JSF till NATO and the Americans iron out all the kinks. Later, when they have finalized the bugs and the production schedule, the Indian navy should make a commitment.

Anonymous said...

Just an Awesome eye opener buddy.

Tapas said...

Excellent Analysis...

Max Turbator said...

Just follow this link to see how useless the f-35 really is!


Anonymous said...

JSF could find a place with the IN, given there is no STOVL replacement on the horizon.

In naval (CTOL) role, AMCA is planned. If that doesn´t work for some reason, JSF could work, but one has to see how AMCA goes. For IAF, AMCA exactly fills the roll that F-35A does, and may very well perform better in many aspects given the design will not also have to accomodate STOVL requirements.

Until AMCA, more Super-30, MMRCA, and PAK-FA/FGFA will be more than enough to keep IAF strength up, and dominant.

Anonymous said...

Much better article than the one at Broadsword.


Anonymous said...

a very well thought out article and timely............

We should not even think about buying a single F35 aircraft till it is in serial production after 2018 (hopefully), and our pilots can perform a thorough and complete technical evaluation to determine its actual merits. From the information available right now, it does appear that the F 35 is a dog.

Cancelling the MMRCA for the F 35 would be rather stupid.......

Sangharsh said...

Greetings all.

Although I am in favour of MMRCA over F35, there are some points that have not been represented correctly about F35 JSF.

First, the weapon load: It can sufficiently carry around 1300 Kg of Internal weapons + around 6700 Kg external weapons, making the total around 8000Kg, which makes it inferior only to Rafale, as far as weapon load is concerned. Although this is going to compromise Stealth, but the overall radar signature would still be less than any fully loaded MRCA contender. To add to this, some external pylons in JSF are stealthy, and are specialized to carry ASRAAMs, which further helps in maintaining a low radar signature. Also, the very powerful LPI AESA, the AN/APG-81, which can even jam the APG-77 of F22, allows JSF to detect first and lock first. It is preposturous to compare Tejas weapon load to JSF, which is currently only 4000Kg including "external fuel".

Second,Aerial Warfare capability: Seriously, an aircraft armed with a radar like the APG-81, an IRST like AN/AAQ-37 DAS will be a worthy air-to-air opponent. BVR and EW capability is unmatched at any given day, however since it is not very maneuverable, WVR combat capability may seem to be questionable. But it can carry extra ASRAAMs without compromising stealth, has a very advanced HMS, the cockpit provides exceptional situational awareness, is armed with high off-bore sight missiles like AIM-9X and ASRAAM. With all these, it can be a decent fighter in WVR combat, better than many, and inferior to only a select few. Since it has very good air-to-air capability along with ground attack, it is a very good swing role fighter.

Third, combat radius: On internal fuel, its range is around 2200Km, comparable to Gripen NG and more than Mig-35.

The authors of this blog are correct about procurement timelines, maintenance issues. But as a side note we know how good it has been maintaining Russian fighters for IAF?

Too complex and radically new?, all fifth generation fighters are supposed to be like that.

The valid reasons for IAF to not to go for F35 JSF should be:

(1) Procurement
(2) Already IAF is going ahead with FGFA
(3) AMCA (it will come with extrapolated knowledge from FGFA and MRCA)
(4) Costs (FGFA should be cheaper)
(5) CISMOA and all the other crap


Shubham said...

It would be interesting to know what IAF fighter pilots - past or present feel about this latest offering by Uncle Sam.. My two cents to this debate would be a definite "No no".. we dont need the F-35 in its present form. If these fighters are so capable as claimed to be pitched to the IAF, why aren't the same being accepted by the USAF first, beset as they are with so many problems. Besides as pointed by others here, we have quite capable and more potent fighter programs already in pipleline, thanks to the Super Sukhoi upgrade planned on the SU-30 MKI, and then the FGFA, and MMRCA programmes. With so much to learn for the HAL thanks to these programs, it is advisable that they invest the knowledge gained from these programs towards developing the AMCA program, rather than invest time, money and mindspace over a plane that is not really need by IAF..

Anonymous said...

There are two points of view one by Ajay Shukla , he keeps advocating F-35 umpteen times for the MMRCA (Sometimes I feel Lockheed has paid him) then this counter view. PAK-FA/FGFA is no doubt far from perfection still several prototypes are due but that is the best India can get close to at least manufacture these aircrafts at HAL.Maybe Russians can get a good test bed here for fine tuning their product similar to SU-30MKI The Russians mind you will never part with the design. Anyway F-35 is still a poor cousin of the F-22 more for the export market (maybe a toned down version). They will never allow us to manufacture F-35 at HAL. The Americans are already on the way to a sixth generation fighter(manned/unmanned). We should assimilate the MMRCA & the FGFA technologies to roll out our very own AMCA.

joydeep ghosh said...

@ Anonymous 3.33
you said...

[Other analysts have pointed out that they F35 is tuned for ground attack and yet they have latter pitch F35 for taking on J20. When they say that, you have to ask why and the obvious answer is that J20 can't be matched when it fly. So the only way to take on 5th Gen air superiority fighters is to defeat them in ground. I hope you get the facts correct when you comment about asking too much. Other, if you think this comment is a pun, please don't]

I have all my facts clear, but what about you. As per your post i think you are trying to say is that JSF F-35 can take out J-20 on the ground.

Are you serious!!!!.

Are you sure the aircraft with presumably 4500 km range will be based in China Occupied Tibet, which is the actual limit of the JSF range. First get you facts correct. No offence


Joydeep Ghosh

Anonymous said...

Now it is official the first F-35 is not going to roll out before 2018,look at the below link,

So when will India get its first F-35? After 2023, as of now. Already huge orders are placed by many countries. Also India will not get some important components as it didn't sign CIS/***.

Anonymous said...

Every year, we get +2 year delaying of LM, it would be surely ready after 2020-2025, To much problem and bugs. rafale needed 20 year developpemnt with intermediate prototype until the come the new rafale F3 (complete version), the jsf get also trouble & cost & delaying and delaying. The rafale F5 (full 5g) would be ready at time to race the f35.

Anonymous said...

waste of money for india. us wants all the defence deals from india want to snatch from india and when comes to tot will move back no use o go for f-35.. us know that they cannot affort the plane and wants to sign a deal with india for running their program with india's money and still no tot to india.. gud thinking of pentagon. at the time of p8i also they that given the diet verion and billions they have taken from india..

Mihir said...

Animesh, Joydeep: Any argument that seeks to compare the J-20 with the F-35 is a red herring. The counter to the J-20 is not the F-35, or even the F-22. It is a mixture of better AEW&C, a highly integrated air defense system, improved C4I, and so on. Stealth aircraft do not fundamentally counter other stealth aircraft. They simply prevent an adversary armed with such aircraft from acquiring an asymmetric advantage over you by providing you with similar capabilities.

Also, the F-35 in Indian service may not be used to “blunt” a Pakistani offensive. For that role, dedicated CAS birds like the MiG-27 will prove to be a far better option. Rather, it will be an offensive platform, used to take the battle to the enemy.

Anon @ 4:43 PM: Fair point on the payload thing. What we meant to say was: “It can just about carry as many weapons as the Tejas can while preserving its stealth”. I hope this clarifies our stand.

Suspect aerial warfare capabilities? My dear sir, we believe that is a fair characterisation of an aircraft that is expected to carry only four air-to-air missiles after IOC, and has thrust-to-weight ratio and wing loading figure straight out of the 1960s. The same goes for swing-role capability. A loadout of two air-to-air missiles + two bombs is hardly swing-role. It may be able to defend itself with two missiles, but can it switch between A2A and A2G roles at any time? No.

And finally, we aren’t talking of “parceling out aircraft role to missile cover and Brahmos”. We explicitly stated that missiles can’t do everything! Yet, for every scenario under which India can use missiles instead of an aircraft like the F-35, the attractiveness of retaining a handful of these planes for niche roles decreases.

Anon @ 6:52 PM: Good point! Incremental improvements in our C4I and EW systems (and they are happening) are going to bolster overall capability of the entire system significantly. Procuring F-35s instead of Typhoons or Rafales will nto accomplish any such thing.

Anon @ 7:17 PM: Simply not true. Remember the often cited story about B-36 bombers being able to out-turn USAF Sabres at high altitude?

Mihir said...

Anons @ 10:32 PM and 4:31 AM: Maybe the F-35 will work out well for the Navy. But only if coupled with ambitious plans. If we're going to run only two active carriers at once, it won’t. The maintenance costs and per unit fly away costs won't justify fielding one squadron (two is out, we already have MiG-29Ks and they might order the N-LCA is small amounts). If you're looking at it from the “mature” point of view.... will we add a couple of other carriers 20 years from now? If so, some ready-to-fly F-35Cv2 models might be nice; we could even keep the Fulcrums for shore duty. So, maybe.

Sangharsh: The problem with having both an internal bay and external pylons is that the aircraft then has to be evaluated separately on both counts. With just an internal weapons load, it can take two precision-guided munitions and two AAMs. A nice niche role, but the IAF is not in favour of buying single-purpose aircraft for now. You also mention range on internal fuel: you've compared it to the Gripen on internal fuel. That's setting your standard a bit low :) Not to mention LM have yet to meet performance targets for the entire aircraft thanks to weight issues.

With an external weapons load, the F-35 gets beaten by either MMRCA contender - range & payload options are better for the Europeans and stealth becomes a moot point with pylons on. The avionics suite might give it better survivability though, but its lack of self-defence capability may neutralise that advantage. We do envy the LPI radar, though. The electro-optical sensor? Remains to be seen how useful it is. The F-14D did have a terrific one, but it was also large and externally mounted. Not so on the JSF, where will they get the focal length from?

Coming to the F-35 being “too complex and radically new”. We would be last to argue against using cutting edge technology in a new system, be it a cell phone or an aeroplane. But most fighters to date have mostly used proven technologies along with a handful of "radically new" components/subsystems to give them an edge over an opponent's platforms. The problem in the arises when practically everything you put in is untried and a major break from past practice. While this may or may not be true for the FGFA or J-20 or AMCA -- it certainly applies to the F-22 and F-35.

Anonymous said...

I don't think we need a MMRCA or 5 generation fighter with BVR & Stealths. We are good at crashing our fighters & reducing the squadrons. Best way is to use MIGs & Jaguars to crash into enemy targets instead of spending on MMRCA & FGFA. Only catch hear is that the fighter should cross over to enemy territory

jyothi said...

The f22 or JFS remains stealthy only until radars are limited by their detection capabilities. What will you do once the radars catch up with you. With planes like sukhoi, eurofighter, rafale, these conventional planes give you the option of being a true fighter planes. In long term, lets say immediate future, Brahmos, Agni, Shauryas will take over bombing roles just as spy satellites replaced Mig 25.
No doubt F35 will do what it does.
Do you do shopping just because something is available in the supermarket. If thats the case, our homes would have been supermarkets. We buy what fits our needs.
Most of us, while buying a car, look at cost of maintenance, sapres, serviceability etc. Thats why when americans buy 4x4, supercars and we buy marutis. Marutis does the job we want it do and fits our pockets. Ofcourse its not a Ferrari. By no means it is a lesser car than these because more familes in India rely on it than there are hairs on the head of a ferrari owner.

Missiles and smart ones along with space tech will form a formidable deterrent and weapon, making bombers obsolete.

Lets remember, India is a country where farm suicides have hit quater of a million. We need to defend our country as well as feed the hungry. We ought to be practical here.

Anonymous said...

@ Mihir and Aditya.

awesome article!
great insight :)

Ravi Vishwanathe