With the US planning to transfer eight F-16s to Pakistan, India is considering the proposal to manufacture the fighter jets under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
In November 2015, Washington hinted that it could allow New Delhi to manufacture the aircraft locally mainly to meet India’s defence requirements. During their meeting with Prime Minister Modi, senior Lonkheed Martin (LM) officials not only raised the possibility of local manufacture, but also agreed to allow India to export the fighter jets. Although the Indian government is yet to take a final decision in this regard, it is expected that the Modi administration will make an announcement soon.
However, it is not clear whether the offer is still on the table, as India has shown its displeasure at Washington’s decision to transfer eight of the Block 52 variants of F-16 jets to Pakistan. Even if LM allows India to manufacture F-16s, the South Asian country will opt for a more advanced variant (F-16 IN Super Viper) of the fighter than that is being sold to its neighbour. A senior Defence Ministry official stressed that New Delhi had planned to replace the Indian Air Force’s medium multi-role combat aircraft with American F-16s, but scrapped the plan due to some technical problems.
Meanwhile, some other foreign aircraft manufacturing companies are also ready to make the same offer to India. American defence giant Boeing has shown keen interest in building F/A 18 Super Hornet fighter jets under the “Make in India” plan. India is considering two more proposals to make fighter jets in the country. New Delhi recently received one of these two offers from Sweden’s SAAB, which is fully prepared to transfer the Gripen fighter line to India. Another proposal has been offered by Airbus that wants to create a ‘Eurofighter City’ in India for producing its Eurofighter jet.
According to sources close to the Defence Ministry, India will consider the quality of fighter jets before accepting any of these offers. Another important factor is which of these companies can generate thousands of jobs in India. It becomes crucial for Prime Minister Modi to create job opportunities in India, apart from strengthening the national security.