US Air Force Chief Expects Major Role in Indian Military Modernization

US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James

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Washington, DC – US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James recently reiterated the US mission to deepen defense ties with the region as she returned after a two-week trip to the Philippines, Singapore, India, and Indonesia.

In a post-trip roundtable with the Pentagon media, Secretary James said, “We went to the region basically because our mission was to try to deepen military to military and Air Force to Air Force relationships and if I were to summarize the big takeaway that I have from the trip is that everyone wants more US Air Force.”

On her stop in India, Secretary James said, “We discussed some of India’s modernization programs, their desired modernization program as well as their strong interest in co-production and co-development technology transfer. Some of this would occur under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).”

On her talks about both the F-16 and the F-18 proposals, which she noted came direct from industry and were not US government proposals, Secretary James said, “They are not FMS (Foreign Military Sales) but I had the opportunity to talk to the leaders with whom we met in India about just how high quality both of these aircrafts are, how the selection of either one of them would go a long way for interoperability, being able to train with partners and allies and also the importance of the total package approach, that is to say, buy the aircraft, but an aircraft alone won’t do.” She added, “You also have to have maintenance, you have to have training so a total package approach is just really really important.”

Stressing the industry related “specificity in terms of jobs that are going to be created and offsets,” Secretary James said, “The US government doesn’t get involved with offsets so my role in all of that was to simply vouch in a very strong way for the quality of these aircrafts and the importance of having interoperability and training opportunities and the like.”

Secretary James highlighted the Indian aim to get technology transfer, saying, “Obviously technology transfer is something that India is really really hoping for, looking for so how much we’re able to work through, I will probably be a key determinant.”

As to the timeline associated with those projects, Secretary James said, “The Indian government is not likely to come to a resolution on this for at least a year, a year and a half perhaps, that’s my impression.”

Secretary James leads a globally deployed force of nearly 660,000 active duty, guard, reserve, and civilian Airmen, and she oversees the Air Force’s annual budget of more than $139 billion.

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