F-16 fighter jets
Opening F-16 and F/A-18 production line in India would rely on U.S. willingness to transfer technology, says U.S. Air Force secretary. In Picture: A Taiwan Air Force U.S.-made F-16 fighter jet gets washed after a drill at the Chiayi Air Force base, southern Taiwan, Jan. 26, 2016.Reuters

The issue of technology transfer is likely to be the sticking point on whether the United States sanctions potential shift of F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet's production line to India.

On Thursday, U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said that apart from the transfer of technology, India is also looking at the Make in India aspect and generation of jobs. James was interacting with mediapersons after wrapping up her recent visit to India, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines.

"Obviously technology transfer is something that India is really hoping for — looking for so how much we're able to work through — will probably be a key determinant," James was quoted as saying by PTI.

James even suggested a wait of 18 months for things to move forward over a possible India production facility. She clarified that the proposal came from the industry.

During her visit to India, James held discussions with Secretary (Defence Production) Ashok Kumar Gupta, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha and Vice Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa. They deliberated on the importance of interoperability and joint training sessions.

James revealed that India was also considering Sweden's Saab Gripen fighter aircraft. Earlier, Jan Widerstrom, head of Saab India Technologies Private Limited had offered next generation Gripen E to India with transfer of technology under the 'Make in India' initiative. This was followed by a five-day visit from Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha to Sweden. The IAF chief flew Saab's Gripen D fighter aircraft.

However, James stressed on the high quality of F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft. She noted that if India selects them then it will go a long way in interoperability and training, which will be a "total package."

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