Lockheed Martin and India’s Tata Advanced Systems have signed a pact to produce F-16 fighter planes in India. The two companies have announced their agreement at the Paris Airshow.
Lockheed Martin’s move to forge a joint venture with Tata is aimed at winning billions of dollars worth order from the Indian military.
Lockheed Martin is one of the largest aerospace, defense, security, and advanced technologies companies having worldwide interests. It is headquartered in Maryland. The company was formed after the merger of Lockheed Corporation and Martin Marietta in 1995.
India’s airforce is in requirement of hundreds of aircraft inorder ro replace its soviet-era aircrafts. But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India initiative require the foreign suppliers to forge partnership with a local partner to make planes and build a domestic industrial base in India. This is aimed at cutting outright imports.
But Make-in-India initiative appears to be in conflict with President Donald Trump’s America First campaign under which Trump wants the companies to invest in the United States and create jobs instead of establishing factories abroad. To allay these concerns, both the companies have said that moving the production base to India would still retain jobs in the United States.
Establishing a production base in India for the manufacture of F-16 will create new manufacturing jobs in India and is expected to position Indian industry at the centre of the most extensive fighter aircraft supply ecosystem in the world,
Sweden’s Saab is the other contender to supply aircraft to the Indian Air Force. The company has offered to make its Gripen fighter in India. However, it is yet to announce a local partner In India. Gripen fighters are pitched as a modern alternative to the F-16s.
US and India have built a close defence relationship in recent years. US along with Russia and Israel has emerged as a top three arms supplier to India. F-16s are flown by air forces by 26 countries around the world. In addition, Lockheed Martin is offering model Block 70 which is the most modern of all F-16s.