Lockheed Martin partners with Tata to produce F-16 fighter planes in India; will boost the ‘Make In India’ program significantly
Tata Group’s defence arm has signed a deal with the American aerospace company Lockheed martin to manufacture the new generation F-16 fighter planes in India and export them. No wonder, this joint venture will be a big boost to the ambitious ‘Make in India’ program and it will also compete with Sweden’s Saab that builds the Gripen-E fighter aircraft.
Tata Advanced Systems signed the deal with Lockheed Martin at the Paris Air Show and interestingly, the partnership comes right after the French Rafale fighter emerges as the winner in India’s MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) project to acquire 126 jets. Both the F-16 and Gripen were the only two single-engine aircrafts among six contenders to win the bid.
Lockheed Martin F-16 could be the next single-engine fighter aircraft to enter the Indian Air Force to supplement the indigenously built Tejas that took a long time. According to the defence ministry’s plan to acquire the second single-engine fighter aircraft, the made in India F-16’s could play crucial role if it wins the bid against the main rival Swedish made Gripen.
Under the plan, there could be an order from Ministry of Defence to acquire 100 aircrafts for IAF and the order could go to 200 aircrafts as well. However, the Lockheed Martin-Tata deal is a subject to condition that F-16 emerges as the winner to IAF’s project to purchase 100 single-engine fighter aircrafts. Then only the US-based company will shift its operational F-16 production line from Texas to India.
Under the agreement between the Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems, the Indian company will give the F-16s full service support like Indian sensors and other advanced systems. Also, it will be able to make future upgrades to the F-16s. Under this agreement new manufacturing jobs are expected to be created in India employing several skilled people.
The Lockheed Martin F-16s have been one of the most famous and advanced fighter aircrafts that has been in business since 1978. Besides the US Air Force, this aircrafts have been in use by several other air forces around the world. More than 4,500 units of F-16s have been manufactured till date and around 3,200 units are still flown by 26 countries including Pakistan as well.