New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is interested in procuring the American F-35 Lightning II for its depleting fighter fleet. IAF top brass is formally requesting for a classified briefing by the F-35’s prime builder, Lockheed Martin, on the capabilities of the sophisticated, fifth-generation fighter developed under the US Joint Strike Fighter programme.
The Indian Navy, which has never ruled out operating the F-35 off Indian aircraft carriers, has received a briefing on the F-35 as far back as 2010, Lockheed Martin official Orville Prins told this correspondent. However, at that stage, the F-35 was still grappling with serious development challenges.
A fifth-generation jet fighter is a jet fighter classification used around the world that encompasses the most advanced jet fighter generation. The exact characteristics of fifth-generation jet fighters are controversial and vague, with Lockheed Martin defining them as having all-aspect stealth even when armed, low-probability-of-intercept radar (LPIR), high-performance airframes, advanced avionics features, and highly integrated computer systems capable of networking with other elements within the battlespace for situation awareness.
A fifth-generation fighter is characterised by a “stealth design”, making it far more difficult for radar to detect; “supercruise”, or the ability to fly at supersonic speeds without engaging engine afterburners; and highly networked avionics that detect and engage enemy aircraft using a range of sensors and weapons across the battle-space.
The only true fifth-generation fighters in service are the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. China is developing two stealth fighters – the J-20 Chengdu and the J-31 Shenyang. Russia is developing its own fifth-generation fighter.