Experts claim that border tensions between India and China could pave way for F-21 fighter jets to grace the Indian air force despite Indian defence chief wanting to ‘start using locally made weaponry.’
On May 15 this year, in an interview with Bloomberg, Indian Chief of defence staff, Bipin Rawat had said that “The Indian Air Force is switching that [order for foreign fighters] to the LCA. The IAF is saying, I would rather take the indigenous fighter, it is good.”
However, the National Interest claims that “India may soon acquire a supercharged F-16 specifically tailored to them by Lockheed Martin as part of an effort to match, rival or exceed Chinese air supremacy in the event of a conflict.”
The report cites that the recent provocations by China in the Himalayan region of Ladakh and presently witnessing a military standoff might influence India’s final decision on the F-21s.
The F-21 fighter aircraft
The F-21 fighter jets were expected to be developed for the Indian Airforce (IAF) by the leading American aerospace, defence, arms and security firm, Lockheed Martin in partnership with India’s Tata Advanced Systems (TAS).
“The F-21 addresses the Indian Air Force’s unique requirements and integrates India into the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem,” writes Lockheed Martin on their website.
An upgraded model of the widely acclaimed F-16, the F-21s are packed with advanced technology that includes Northrop built APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array, Electronic Warfare systems and Triple Missile Launcher Adaptors which allows “the F-21 to carry 40-percent more air-to-air weapons than previous F-16 designs” told Lockheed spokesman John Losinger to media.
“The F-21 is also the only fighter in the world capable of both probe/drogue and boom aerial refuelling, and it has the longest service life of any competitor—12,000 flight hours,” continued Losingser.
The F-21 makes use of the U.S. Navy-built advanced Infrared Search and Track targeting technology (IRST) which is believed to be a passive, long-range sensor that searches and detects for infrared emissions.
Originally designed by Boeing and Lockheed Martin, the IRST technology is specifically designed to combat in the fast-changing electromagnetic warfare environment.
US Navy officials reportedly claim that the system is designed to simultaneously track multiple targets and provide a highly effective air-to-air targeting capability, even when encountering advanced threats equipped with radar-jamming technology.
“The IRST system—which has been tested on F/A-18s, is passive and therefore harder to detect than some radar technologies which give off radiation”, Navy officials told media.
Apart from the IRST, “some of the technologies developed for the 5th Generation Lockheed F-22 “Raptor” and F-35 “Lightning II” programs of the United States Air Force are said to figure into making the F-21 an advanced, modern solution for the upgrading IAF – all this atop the proven, storied airframe that is the F-16 Fighting Falcon,” mentions militaryfactory.
However, with all the advanced technical superiorities, defence experts still assert that advanced 4th generation F-21 may not be equipped to combat the Chinese 5th generation J-20 or J-31 stealth aircraft.