Lockheed Martin (LM) plans to manufacture ‘F-16’ fighter jets in India. The American defence major has confirmed that it recently offered to move its lone production line of the latest version of F-16, named ‘Block-70’, to India from Texas. Speaking at a media conference in New Delhi, Head (F-16 Business Development) of LM Randall L Howard recently said that the proposed move would help meet Indian and global requirement.
However, Howard made clear that the proposal was “conditional” and LM would move its lone production line to the South Asian country only if the Indian Air Force (IAF) agreed to acquire the world’s largest-sold fighter aircraft for its fleet. “The offer we have given to the Indian government is unmatched and from our side unprecedented,” he told reporters. Howard further said that LM wanted to manufacture F-16 Block-70 “for India, from India and export to the world”.
Interestingly, Howard avoided questions on whether LM had any plan to sell F-16s to Pakistan, saying that the Indian and American governments would discuss the issue later. Meanwhile, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that New Delhi would choose at least one more aircraft, apart from the indigenous ‘Tejas’, for the IAF through the ‘Make in India’ route. It means that India is still not ready to accept the LM’s conditional offer.
Defence experts have opined that LM cannot force the IAF to acquire F-16s because its American rival Boeing (F/A-18E), France’s Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Sweden’s Saab (Gripen) and the Eurofighter are also eyeing the Indian market. More importantly, all the companies have offered to set up a production facility in the Indian capital without any “condition”.
Howard tried his best to convince the Indian government to acquire F-16s for the IAF, saying that it would be a “win-win situation” for both New Delhi and LM. He argued that the F-16 Block-70 would be the best fighter aircraft in the South Asian region. “It is critical for you to pick up a partner who will deliver on his promise,” Howard told the Indian officials.