The US made a splash for the second consecutive day at Aero India with the arrival of two B-1B ‘Lancer’ long range bombers in Bengaluru on February 14, expanding its already formidable line-up at India’s largest air show.
The B-1B bombers were flown in from the Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, demonstrating their reach and capability. These are supersonic heavy bombers capable of carrying out missions worldwide, bear the heaviest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons and are considered the backbone of the US long-range bomber force.
The US bombers flew past and are learnt to be parked at a location not far from the Yelahanka airbase where the air show is being held.
On Day 1 of the air show on February 13, the US stole the show by fielding two F-35 stealth fighters, marking the first time for fifth generation fighter aircraft to land on Indian soil.
The multirole F-35A Lightning II and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter flew aerobatic manoeuvres during flypasts on Day 2 of the air show.
The fielding of the F-35 fighters and the B-1B ‘Bone’ bombers is being widely seen an effort by the US to showcase its most advanced and lethal weapon systems in India. The messaging is about the potential and possibilities in the India-US relationship as Major Defence partners.
Major General Julian C. Cheater, Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs, said, “The B-1 offers flexible options to senior leaders and combatant commanders. Greater integration with our Allies and partners throughout the region is a positive step towards greater interoperability.”
The US Defence Attache in India, Rear Admiral Michael Baker, said, “We are happy to have the B1 in India for the second time. These bombers made the journey from South Dakota to Guam and then to India just to add another exciting dimension to Aero India ‘23. It’s a long mission to travel from the continental U.S. to the Indian Ocean; but it was worth it to be part of the biggest air show in the region hosted by our Major Defence Partner, India. The US and India continue to deepen Defence cooperation. We have two great militaries that are even better when we work together.”
The B-1B landed in India for the first time on February 3, 2021 during the last edition of Aero India and conducted a fly-by on the inaugural day of show. “Commonly called the “Bone” (for “B-one”), the return of the long-range, supersonic, heavy bomber to India to participate in Aero India 2023 underscores the importance the United States places on the growing strategic partnership with India,” the US Embassy stated.
The line-up of US Government aircraft at Aero India 2023 now comprises the B-1B, the F-35, the F/A-18 Super Hornet as well as the iconic F-16. The F-35 and F-16 are participating in the flypast while the Super Hornets are on static display. The latest variant of the F-16 – the F-21 is in contention for an Indian Air Force procurement programme to acquire 114 foreign fighters. The Super Hornet is competing with the French Rafale Marine for the Indian Navy order for 26 deck-based fighters.
The Pentagon pulled out all the stops for the Fifth Generation F-35 fighters to make a historic debut at Aero India.
The F-35A Lightning II made a long journey from Hill Air Force Base in Utah, United States. This is the one also participating in the Aero India flypast daily. The F-35A Joint Strike Fighter, flown in from the Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska is on static display.
The F-35, with an engine which produces 43,000 pounds of thrust, represents the upper end of contemporary air combat capability.
Major General Julian C. Cheater said, “The F-35 represents the leading-edge of US fighter technology. Aero India is an ideal forum to showcase the most advanced, capable, lethal, and interoperable weapons systems the US has to offer. This system and others are designed to penetrate and defeat advanced adversary air defences.”
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