F-22 Raptor, 'smartest fighter' likely at Aero India
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Final details are being worked out by the US, but sources said that two of the fighters are set to be flown in for the air show that begins on February 9 and will be showcased as a static display. Defence Ministry officials confirmed that the fighter is likely to make its Indian debut at the air show, making the latest edition of the Aero India the grandest ever.
While it was inducted into the US military in 2005, the stealth aircraft has rarely been seen outside its country and has made appearances only at limited air shows, the first being at Farnborough in 2008. According to a release by the US State department, the only other participation has been at an air show in Chile last year. However, the fighter has also carried out flying demonstrations at the Dubai air show. Its participation at the Aero India would take it up by several notches in the international order of air shows.
While the F-22 Raptor's appearance will be a last minute surprise, it has been speculated that the recent Indian contract to purchase fifth generation fighters from Russia and the first flight of the Chinese fifth generation fighter, J 20, could have had some influence on the decision. As of now, US legislation prevents the sale of the F-22 to any foreign nation, including close allies such as Japan.
The F-22 would be the most anticipated participant at the Aero India, but this year's air show will see close to 100 aircraft participating, a number that has never been achieved before. In comparison, during the last show in 2009, less than 50 aircraft took part. Other notable participants will be the Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, F/A 18, F 16 and the Saab Gripen.
The biggest participant will be the US that is bringing in several aircraft, including 10 fighters, the C 17 Globemaster III transport aircraft and the WC 130 J Weatherbird. A notable absentee in this year's show will be the Russian MiG 35 that is unlikely to come even though it is one of the six contenders for the IAF's MMRCA programme.