Trump regime strongly supports the sale of F-18 and F-16 to India


Trump regime strongly supports the sale of F-18 and F-16 to India

The Trump administration has told the U.S Congress that it “strongly supports” the sale of F-18 and F-16 fighter planes to India, built by American companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin respectively. Both companies have offered to assemble these planes in India, should New Delhi decide to buy them. President Donald Trump is in principle against companies relocating facilities abroad and a written submission to a Congressional subcommittee by Alice Wells, acting Assistant Secretary of State for the South and Central Asian Affairs, clarifies the administration’s position on the issue.


U.S lawmakers and bureaucrats in general have been enthusiastic supporters of selling these fighters to India, and are now presenting them as deals that could reduce America’s trade deficit with India and create more jobs in America than they relocate — issues that are top on Mr. Trump’s agenda. Ms. Wells mentioned the strategic significance of defence cooperation with India — “defence cooperation with India is so vital to US interests because we need India to be a net security provider in the Indo-Pacific” — but also added that America needs to do more to reduce the deficit. She added US exports to India support more than 260,000 American jobs “across all 50 states.”

F-16 and Gripen, built by Swedish company Saab, are in competition for the proposed single-engine fighter acquisition for the Indian Air Force. French Rafale and Boeing’s F/A-18 are competing for the contract for Indian Navy’s twin engine fleet for its aircraft carriers. Lockheed Martin and Tata have announced a joint venture to manufacture F-16, while Saab announced a JV with Adani last week for Gripen.

Strategic expert Ashley Tellis recently argued in a paper that F-16 and F-A/18 are the best choices for India in their respective categories. According to him, India will become the hub of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 manufacture for the entire world — there are more countries exploring purchase — and in supporting the 3,200 F-16s that continue to be in service in 25 countries.

The U.S military no longer buys F-16 but the 950-odd F-16s will remain in US Air Force (USAF) service for another two decades, Mr. Tellis said. For F-A/18 the argument has been based more on technological superiority, though Boeing also has offered manufacturing in India and transfer of technology.