Reported by The Economic Times
By Manu Pubby, ET Bureau | Aug 04, 2016, 03.15 AM IST
NEW DELHI: US arms giant Lockheed Martin sees a $15-billion export potential for a new generation of ‘Made in India’ F16 fighter jets, with a top executive telling ET that a proposal to make India the sole producer of the aircraft has been shared with the government.
The proposal, backed by the US government, is among at least four similar applications by global aviation leaders to set up a fighter jet line in India to cater for the requirements of the Indian Air Force (IAF). The defence ministry is currently evaluating the proposals.
Lockheed, which has already sold its hardy C-130J airlifter to the IAF, believes that besides the Indian requirement that would be the basis of setting up a production line, it can export at least 100 of its Block 70 F16 fighter jets to customers in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.
“This is a state-of-the-art fighter — the most modern F16 in the world and our proposal is to make it in India. We want to make India the sole producer of all future variants of the F16. This is an offer we have never made to anyone before,” says George Standridge, vice-president (aeronautics strategy and business development), Lockheed Martin.
As first reported by ET in April, the US government for the first time offered India both the F16 and the F/A18 jets to be produced domestically under a transfer of technology agreement.
The F16, one of the most mass produced fighter jets in the world, has been manufactured at several locations in the past, including South Korea, Turkey and Belgium, besides the US. Lockheed’s proposal is to shut the only active production line in Fort Worth, Texas and shift it to India if its plan is accepted. “We are looking at a joint venture model where the prime ownership will reside with the Indian company.
It will be an Indian company led program and we see a great potential for at least 100 jets to be exported within 5-7 years,” Standridge said. Lockheed said it has shared its experience of setting up fighter lines across the world with the Indian government and is confident that this would give it an edge against competitors. In a series of discussions over the past few months, Lockheed executives have been answering questions on how a joint venture model would work out.
“We have described in detail our experience in Turkey, where we started working from 1989 on the jet. Our partner there is now the biggest defence company of Turkey and has even partnered in the F35 fighter jet program,” Standridge said. India has been planning to set up a fighter jet line to meet upcoming deficiencies in the fleet.
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