By giving green signal to its aviation majors to bid for contracts in India, the US has for the first time allowed sale of its land and carrier-based F-18 fighter jets to any country.
Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, popularly known as F-18s, have previously not been sold to any country, even to NATO allies, aviation officials said.
The US decision, is seen here by military strategists as a step towards Washington and New Delhi stepping up their strategic partnership. Two major US companies - Lockheed Martin and Boeing - would now be bidding for the Indian Air Force's contract on acquisition of 126 multi-role combat aircraft. Also in the race are France's Dassualt, Sweden's Grippen and companies from Russia.
Reacting to the announcement, top Lockheed Martin executive in India Mike Kelly said his company would soon respond to India's request for information on the sale of its best selling combat aircraft, the upgraded F-16 falcons. "We are optimistic about our chances and excited to be allowed to make a first ever major defence contract bid in India," Kelly said.
Lockheed Martin along with Dassault, the makers of the upgraded Mirage 2000, are the first two companies to offer complete technology transfer to India. The single engined F-16s, experts say, would definitely enjoy a price advantage over the F-18s which are twin engined.