The biannual Aero India editions over the last decade were the most sought after destination for the world’s top armament manufacturers to showcase their latest combat aircraft as India was looking to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
Contenders for the $11 billion MMRCA deal used to bring their aircraft to the Air Force Station Yelahanka, the venue of the Aero India, for aircraft displays to woo not just government officials and defence experts, but also celebrities.
However, with India recently choosing the Rafale and with the ministry of defence on the verge of inking the MMRCA contract with French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, the ninth edition of the Aero India, which is slated to take place from February 6 to 10, will not see the participation of the world’s most advanced combat/stealth aircraft.
US Aerospace major Lockheed Martin has already confirmed to DNA that it would not be showcasing its F-22 Raptor or the F-35 Lightning II.
“Lockheed Martin will not be bringing the F-22 Raptor or the F-35 Lightning II for Aero India 2013. We are still awaiting details on displays which will be finalised after January 1,” was Lockheed Martin’s response.
While the F-22 Raptor is the only operational fifth generation aircraft in the world today, the F-35 Lightning II is still under development.
Lockheed Martin’s decision to not to showcase the F-35 Lightning II at the Aero India 2013 is surprising, considering that the US has for some time been persuading India to buy this aircraft which is still under development.
After the US lost the MMRCA contract (two US aircraft, F-16 Super Viper and F/A-18 Super Hornet were among the six contenders), the US Senate Armed Services Committee had directed its defence department to study the feasibility of offering the F-35 to India.
The only other fifth-generation aircraft in the world today is the Chinese J-20. But China historically has never showcased any of its products in India.