NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has categorically rejected reports that it has approached global US defence contractor Lockheed Martin for a classified briefing on F-35 Lightning II muti-role fighter jets.
Reacting to reports, IAF Chief BS Dhanoa said that no such request for procuring the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II aircraft has been made to the US.
''Americans have not been officially approached for a briefing on the F-35, ''IAF Chief Dhanoa was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
The clarification from Dhanoa came at a time when IAF is already down to 31 squadrons of fighter aircraft against an authorisation of 42.
In view of IAF's fast depleting fleet, the Centre is expected to go for a government-to-government deal to get the next set of fighters.
However, any decision on buying the next set of fighter jets will be taken only after considering several factors like financial considerations, especially when budgetary provisions are limited for any big-ticket procurement by the Defence Ministry.
The report also quoted sources as saying that the proposal to buy and make a single-engine fighter was taken two years back on multiple considerations, including its cost.
Importantly, the cost of a single-engine fighter is significantly lower than that of a double-engine fighter like Rafale.
Also, the cost of operating a single-engine fighter is much less than that of a double-engine fighter.
An early decision in this regard would have certainly come as a big relief to the IAF and helped it build up its fighter strength, along with the induction of HAL-built indigenous Tejas fighter aircraft.
The government later decided to scrap the proposal for a single-engine fighter because it felt that it would result in a single-vendor situation, which would not be acceptable in the current political environment.
Official sources, however, said that the government is seriously considering the whole Strategic Partnership Model of Defence manufacturing for future defence procurements.