US Admiral Harry Harris backs selling F-35s to India
First public mention by US on selling stealth fighters to New Delhi
Admiral Harry Harris, the chief of the US Pacific Command (USPACOM), is publicly supporting the sale of the advanced F-35 stealth fighter to India, according to a report in India-based StratPost, a website dedicated to South Asian defense and strategic affairs.
StratPost says it’s the first public statement made by a top US official, either civilian or military, on a possible Indian order for the F-35, which is already being sold to Japan and South Korea. Harris, who is known for a hawkish stance on defense issues, has been nominated to be the next US ambassador to Australia.
“At the moment, India is considering a number of US systems for purchase, all of which USPACOM fully supports: the F-16 for India’s large single-engine, multi-role fighter acquisition program; the F/A-18E for India’s multi-engine, carrier-based fighter purchase; a reorder of 12-15 P-8Is; a potential purchase of SeaGuardian UAS; MH-60R multi-role sea-based helicopter; and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter,” StratPost quoted Harris as saying in a hearing held by the US House Armed Services Committee last month.
The US and India have been discussing expanded defense cooperation under a new Indo-Pacific strategy as a counterweight to China’s ambitions in the region. But StartPost noted the “reference to a sale of the fifth generation F-35 has never been made before by any US government official and represents a shift in their willingness to bring it up for discussion with India.”