The US could offer it’s latest, fifth-generation, stealth F-35 fighter jet if Indian cancels the S-400 deal with Russia. The US has been increasing pressure on India over the S-400 deal with senior US officials saying it would have a direct impact on any high technology cooperation in the future.
India is keeping a close eye on Turkey, a NATO ally, who is also going ahead with the purchase of the S-400 batteries from Russia and has been warned by the US with sanctions and the cancellation of its contract for F-35s reported the Indian ET.
Indian ET states that senior industry leaders, as well as officials from the US, are visiting India, even as the deadline for action against Turkey is closing in. The defence ministry, meanwhile, is expected to shortly move ahead on the acquisition of 110 fighter jets for the air force under a strategic partnership programme.
While no official request has been received from India and the F-35 has not been formally put on offer by the US, the aircraft could be pitched as the only air platform that will be equipped and upgraded to beat the S-400 air defence systems that have also been acquired by China.
Like Turkey, India has stood strong on its purchase of the S-400 but it is learnt that only partial payments have been made by New Delhi, given banking sanctions that are already in place for dealing with Russian defence entities. More stringent CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) sanctions have also been threatened against nations purchasing the S-400 from Russia.
While there had been an impression that the US could give India CAATSA waivers for the S-400, recent statements by Washington suggest that this would not be the case. The US stand has been that it will not allow its modern combat aircraft to be operated in an environment where the S-400 is also operational, as it would be able to map these aircraft, enabling software upgrades and modifications to improve performance.
In an effort to wean India away from the S-400, the US has already offered its NASAMS II (National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) for protection of the national capital region against ballistic missiles. In addition, the US has also been in talks for its advanced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot Advance Capability (PAC-3) defence systems with India, though these would come at a significantly steeper cost than the S-400 system.