Should India Buy American F-21 Jets – A Lethal Combination Of F-35 and F-22 Raptors?

Should India Buy F-21 Jets – which the US claims to be a lethal combination of stealth F-35 and F-22 Fighter Jet? US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin recently said it will not sell its newly rolled out F-21 fighter jet to any other country if India places an order for 114 planes, in an offer aimed at pitching itself ahead of its US, European and Russian jets. 

Is F-21 similar to F-16 or F-22 / F-35?

The F-21 according to experts talking to EurAsian Times stated that it looks similar to Lockheed’s F-16 Block 70 combat jets. F-21 is different in terms of various aspects including its airframe, weapons capability, engine matrix and availability of engine options.

“For instance, the service life airframe in F-21 is approximately 12,000 hours compared to 8,000 hours previously (F-16 Block 70). The additional 40% weapons carrying capability is new in F-21 which was not there in F-16 Block 70. The electronic warfare system will be customized for Indian needs,” experts stated

“The F-21 may look comparable to F-16 Block 70, but it is different,” he added. Besides having a traditional boom-delivered refuelling facility, the F-21 jets also has an extendable hose-and-drogue refuelling probe.

“This is the only fighter in the world which has both the capability,” stated experts, adding the cockpit has a new large area display. “It is a modern cockpit and has a significant piece of ability to synthesise information. These are unique capabilities that we are not offering to other countries in the world,” said the Lockheed executive.

The jet has a Long-Range Infrared Search and Track (IRST), allowing pilots to detect threats with precision and Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs) allowing it to carry 40 % additional weaponry.

Make in India Opportunity

The F-21 is seen as offering a massive ‘Make in India’ opportunity ─ consolidating the strength of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence contractor, and Indian conglomerate – Tata Group.

In addition to creating thousands in India, F-21 production in India boost thousands of US supplier jobs, including hundreds of US-based Lockheed Martin engineering, program management, sustainment and customer support positions.

Lockheed Martin continues to leverage technologies across its portfolio to drive affordability within new and existing platforms and is committed to delivering the F-21 at the most affordable price for India.

The F-21 has common components and learning from Lockheed Martin’s 5th Generation F-22 and F-35 and will share a common supply chain on a variety of components. Approximately half of the F-21 and F-16 supply chains are common with the F-22 and F-35.

The question remains should India opt for the F-21 Fighter Jets or should Delhi aggressively negotiate with the US and lay hands on F-35’s which have been supplied to US’ key NATO allies including Japan?