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Is F-21 Fighter Jet A Rebranded Version Of American F-16 Aircraft?

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Last year, the US offered India its F-21 fighter jets which New Delhi did not buy presumably because it resembled the F-16 jets and were seen as a mere rebranded version of the iconic fighter aircrafts.

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However, according to Defence Editor David Axe of National Interest, the F-21 merely resembles the old F-16 but rather is a new aircraft with new cockpit display, a larger airframe spine to accommodate additional electronics and a new infrared sensor and refuelling probe that is compatible with India’s Russian made aerial tankers.

However, the rebranding of F-16 to F-21 fighter jets has raised some poignant questions, one of them being at what point do upgrades turn an old fighter jet into a new one?

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As EurAsian Times had reported earlier, India wants to replace its old 1960s Russian made MiG-21s and MiG-27s. The MiG-21s are particularly prone to accidents with India reporting around 490 crashes killing 200 pilots out of the 874 MiG-21s it first brought into service in 1963.

The Indian Air Force, as reported by the EurAsian Times, has been looking to acquire new fighter jet to fly alongside French Rafales, Russian MiG-29s and SU-30s and India’s indigenously built Tejas aircraft which Lockheed Martin described as the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.

The F-21 shares many of its significant aspects with F-16V which Lockheed has sold previously to Bahrain, Greece, Slovakia, South Korea and Taiwan.

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Yet, the F-21 or F-16V is different from F-16A that first flew in 1978. As compared to the F-16A, F-21 or F-16V has better radar and sensors and carry long-range missiles. But then why did the USA not call the F-16V something different?

The reason behind not changing the fighter’s name seems to be connected with cost efficacy to make the new programme sound less risky. In fact, the three new F-35 variants namely F-35 A, F-35B and F-35C shared very few design elements outside of their cockpits.

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All the three variants have just 20-25% commonality according to Lt Gen Christopher Bodgan. The American tendency to give old names to new aircrafts created a false impression that the fighter aircrafts were just the same old jets with new names.

Another example includes the advanced F-15 variant of Boeing which the company has offered to US Air Force as F-15X and a new F/A-18E/F model that has nothing in common with its earlier predecessor F/A-18A/B.

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If the Indian Air Force opts to buy the F-21 jets it would undoubtedly be able to claim to be the first operator of a brand new aircraft even if to the layman the fighter jet appears to be just another old aircraft.

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Vivek Lall, Vice-President of Strategy and Business Development of Lockheed Martin had earlier said that if India decides to buy the F-21 jets then the company will not sell them to anyone else and will set up a state-of-the-art F-21 manufacturing facility with Tata Group and create an ecosystem for the overall growth of India’s defence manufacturing.

Lall said that looking from a distance, it may appear that the F-16 and F-21 are similar but actually are different. He said that F-21 had 12,000 hours of service life airframe as against F-16’s 8,000 hours and has completely different airframe, weapons capability, engine matrix and availability of engine options, according to News 18.

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Earlier this year, Lockheed Martin inked an agreement with India’s Public Sector Undertaking Bharat Electronics Limited to explore opportunities in the F-21 fighter jet programme.

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Taliban rejects calls for cease-fire by the Afghan Government, International community

In line with a landmark US-Taliban peace agreement — which was only cautiously welcomed by the Afghan government — some 5,000 Taliban prisoners should have been released months ago from government prisons in return for the estimated 1,000 captive security forces.

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The Taliban on Sunday rejected mounting calls for a ceasefire by the Afghan government and the global community, saying they were yet to find “an alternative” to the ongoing insurgency.

The group’s spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, said on Twitter that the implementation of the Doha deal signed between the US and Taliban on Feb. 29 and the start of intra-Afghan negotiations would be necessary for the conflict to de-escalate and end. “If anyone seeks ceasefire before talks then such is illogical. War is raging precisely b/c we have yet to find an alternative,” he said.

Mujahed underlined that prisoner exchanges must be completed and intra-Afghan negotiations launched “immediately” for a resolution to the fighting.

Last week, Afghan President Mohammed Ashraf Ghani warned the peace process might face “serious challenges” if the Taliban continued with the war.

In a virtual conference with the representatives of some 20 regional countries and international organizations, Ghani underlined that though the Afghan government had the capacity and political will to end the war, it had offered the Taliban a political solution to move away from violence.

“The champions of peace will be people of Afghanistan and the region. Regional support for a democratic system in Afghanistan would further strengthen regional cooperation,” he said.

The rejuvenated yet fragile Afghan peace deal hinges on sluggish prison swaps testing the patience of the warring parties.

In line with a landmark US-Taliban peace agreement — which was only cautiously welcomed by the Afghan government — some 5,000 Taliban prisoners should have been released months ago from government prisons in return for the estimated 1,000 captive security forces.

The freeing of prisoners came to a halt less than halfway through in May amid bitter exchanges and allegations, as well as a spike in violence across the war-ravaged country.

According to official sources, there are 12,000-15,000 inmates in Afghan government prisons, including militants from Pakistan, Central Asia and Gulf countries. No figures are available on captives held by the insurgents.

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Four Pakistan Army soldiers killed in North Waziristan near Afghan Border

The clash occurred near Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan, during a raid on a hideout and resulted in the death of four troops, the statement by Pakistan’s army said.

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Four Pakistan Army soldiers and as many militants were killed in a clash in Pakistan’s restive North Waziristan region on Sunday, the military said.

The clash occurred near Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan, during a raid on a hideout and resulted in the death of four troops, the statement by Pakistan’s army said.

“As soon as the troops cordoned off the area, terrorist opened fire. All dug out terrorists were shot down by security forces, ” the statement said, adding: “In exchange of fire, four soldiers embraced shahadat (martyrdom).”

The killed soldiers included Sepoy Muhammad Ismail Khan, Sepoy Muhammad Shahbaz Yasin, Sepoy Raja Waheed Ahmed and Sepoy Muhammad Rizwan Khan.

North Waziristan – once dubbed the heartland of militancy – is one of seven former semi-autonomous tribal regions in Pakistan where the army has conducted a series of operations since 2014 to eliminate Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Successive operations have pushed the TTP towards neighbouring Afghanistan, and Islamabad claims the terrorist network has now set up bases across the border to attack Pakistani security forces.

The military operations also displaced over a million people, but the government claims most of them have returned to their homes. The tribal agencies were recently given the status of districts and merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

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Hundreds protest in the UK againt arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UAE

The protest organized by the Stop the War Coalition took place days after the UK government’s decision to continue arming the Saudi-led coalition.

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Hundreds of people on Sunday (July 12) gathered in front of the Embassy of the UAE, in central London to call on the British government to end arms sales to the Saudi Kingdom and the UAE.

The protest organized by the Stop the War Coalition took place days after the UK government’s decision to continue arming the Saudi-led coalition.

A statement on Stop the War Coalition’s web site said: “Anti-war campaigners say Saudi-led intervention in Yemen will only compound existing tensions and violence in the crisis-ridden state.”

The anti-war group accuses the Saudi regime of playing a leading role in almost every “anti-democratic development in the Middle East.”

On July 7, Britain announced that it will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia a year after the court of appeal declared the UK government acted unlawfully by selling arms to the kingdom without first assessing whether they were involved in breaches of international humanitarian law.

Trade Secretary Liz Truss said in a written statement to parliament that an official government review found that airstrikes in Yemen that breached international humanitarian law were only “isolated incidents.”

“The government will now begin the process of clearing the backlog of licence applications for Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners that has built up since 20 June last year,” she said.

Britain is one of Saudi Arabia’s top arms suppliers. Over the past five years, the UK’s top arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, sold Saudi Arabia £15 billion ($18.8 million) worth of arms.

The government review, sparked by the court of appeal’s decisions in June 2019, assessed examples of Saudi airstrikes using British equipment that could have breached international humanitarian law and killed civilians.

The arms and equipment sold to the Saudi Kingdom by the U.K. include air-to-air missiles, aircraft components, sniper rifles, anti-riot gear, ballistic shields and body armour.

Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

Tens of thousands of Yemenis, including civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis as millions remain at risk of starvation.

Karim El-Bar, Sibel Uygun

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