Bengaluru: The US Air Force’s two newest fifth-generation supersonic multirole F-35A aircraft made a historic debut at Aero India here on Monday, triggering huge interests and adding lustre to the five-day marquee event.
The two jets, F-35A Lightning II and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, arrived at the Yelahanka Air Force station on the outskirts of Bengaluru after their respective journey from Utah and Alaska air force bases in the US.
Indian military officials said it is for the first time that the supersonic stealth aircraft of the US Air Force landed in India.
The arrival of two F-35A jets, known as the most lethal, survivable and connected fighter aircraft in the world, came in the backdrop of the conflict in Ukraine and renewed resolve by India and the US to further consolidate their defence and security partnership.
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In addition to the two F-35s, an F-16 fighting Falcon duo from the US Air Force will conduct daily aerial demonstrations to showcase the capability of one of the force’s leading fighter jets.
The F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet, the US Navy’s most advanced frontline carrier-based multirole strike fighter aircraft are also part of the exhibits from the US.
”After a journey from Hill Air Force Base in Utah, United States, the F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team will impress crowds with a demo of its unique aerial capabilities. The F-35A Lightning II from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska will be on static display,” a readout by the US side said.
Major General Julian C Cheater, US Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force and International Affairs, said the Aero India is an ideal forum to showcase the most advanced, lethal and interoperable weapons systems the US has to offer.
”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,” he said.
The F-35’s engine produces 43,000 pounds of thrust and consists of a three-stage fan, a six-stage compressor, an annular combustor, a single stage high-pressure turbine, and a two-stage low-pressure turbine, according to its manufacturer Lockheed Martin. ”The F-35 brings a decisive advantage to the battlespace, providing an asymmetric advantage across the multi-domain spectrum. The F-35’s capabilities enable pilots to operate in any environment, against any threat. Simply put it is the most advanced multi-role fighter in the world — delivering unmatched lethality, survivability and connectivity,” it said.
US Chargé d’Affaires to India Ambassador A Elizabeth Jones said the size of the US delegation at the Aero India and the country’s partnership pavilion showed that the US-India strategic partnership is one of ”our most consequential relationships”. ”India and the United States are working together in so many ways to ensure a free and open, prosperous, connected, and resilient Indo-Pacific region, where our democracies can thrive. As partners, we’re working together to address climate change, improve global health and prepare for new pandemics, cooperate on cyber challenges, build quality infrastructure and ensure sustainable supply chains,” she said on Sunday.
”We’re strengthening our cooperation on critical technologies, from space components to semiconductors,” Jones said. The US companies which participated at the Aero India include Boeing, GE Aerospace, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc, Lockheed Martin, Pratt and Whitney, TW Metals, LLC, and United Performance Metals.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Aero India, considered Asia’s largest aerospace exhibition.
In his address, Modi showcased India as an attractive destination for investment in the defence manufacturing sector and said the country will move towards becoming one of the leading exporters of military hardware globally backed by favourable economic policies.
”This event, Aero India, also reflects the new approach of new India today. There was a time when it was considered to be mere a show or mere a window to ‘sell to India’. This perception has also changed in the country in the last few years. Today Aero India is not just a show; it is also the strength of India,” he said.
The 14th edition of Aero India is showcasing the country as an emerging hub for manufacturing of military aircraft, helicopters, military equipment and new-age avionics.
The exhibition is being participated by around 810 defence companies and delegates from 98 countries, the officials said.
They said around 250 business-to-business agreements are expected to be firmed up at the aero show which is estimated to unlock investment to the tune of around Rs 75,000 crore.