Monday, April 04, 2005

INDIA: Iffy-16 Goin' On 30

THE F-16
The US fighter is costlier, outdated, one among other options, comes with dubious aftersale support

"From a purely military and economic angle, I would prefer the Mirage-2000-5," says former air chief S.K. Kaul. "Look at what the Americans did to the Pakistanis, their ally for over 50 years. They declared sanctions against them. So how can we trust them? India has always been a good market for the last 50 years, but the Americans always kept us on the blacklist. Now we need to tread very carefully," he cautions. Former vice-chief Air Marshal Vinod Patney feels that the Americans must be "engaged" before the IAF takes any decision. "We need to see how much we can exploit the offer for the F-16 and the F/A-18 from the Americans. If that means that we will benefit in terms of more cooperation in other areas of sensitive technology, then we will have to factor those in." Aviation experts point out that while considering a new aircraft, one also has to look at whether there is any transfer of technology or any licence to manufacture it within the country. Says Air Commodore Jasjit Singh (retd), director, Centre for Air Power Studies, "The issue to my mind is the choice between the French Mirage-2000-5 and the US F-16 or F/A-18, to be manufactured in India jointly. If we go in for the F-16, then we must ensure that we get enough leverage."........More