Ok, I am continuing the discussion on suitability of F-35 for the Indian Navy/IAF. The key strength of the F-35 apart from stealth comes from sensor/information fusion that it's computer is able to do - effectively analyzing all sorts of inputs not only from its own radar, but also from Distributed Aperture System (DAS), Electrical Optical Targeting System (EOTS), other friendly aircraft including AWACS, satellites, drones and what have you. The ASQ-239 EW suite provides a fully integrated RWR that helps in self protection as well as targeting support for aerial and surface threats. All of this allows the F-35 pilot to not only get unprecedented situational awareness but can also act as an information/processing node in a typical network warfare setup. The F-35, from all accounts is multiple orders of magnitude better in terms of capabilities than fighters such as F/A 18 Super Hornet. The so called lack of kinematic performance of the F-35 sounds increasingly like a red herring
- the plane is designed for a mission and it seems to be fully capable of executing those missions it was designed for. With all these good things about the F-35, the question then is: Why should Indian Navy/IAF still consider F/A 18 Super Hornet over the F-35?
Assuming that the F-35 is actually on offer, what are the constraints under which it will work? Let me digress a little bit to understand one of our previous deals with the US - the P-8I Neptune. The fact that we have NOT signed the COMCASA, these were the key technologies that were NOT provided in the P8-I Neptune:
The Radio System
IFF Digital Transponder
Secure Voice Terminal
Secure UHF/VHF Terminal
Source: Live Fist Blog
All these were substituted
with equipment from HAL. The above equipment is "integrated" into the concept of CNI
in the F-35 and based on the patterns of the previous deal, all of this will need to be replaced with Indian items - and assuming the Americans are ready to do it, imagine the kind of costly integration it will take to pull this off?
The second part is integrating the Multi-function Advanced Data Link (MADL) with the IACCS - the MADL is based off the CNI which we cannot use unless we sign the CISMOA!!
There are other issues as well: According to this link
the F-35 costs $42000 per hour of operation compared to a F/A 18 which costs about $17000 per hour. Finally, the F-35 may not be available to India until at least until 2030
, given the commitment to existing partner nations.
PS: As we have signed the COMCASA, some of that equipment might still be available to us. The question then is of integration with IACCS.