Lockheed and Tata Advanced Systems(TAS) to make F-16 in India
Indian Defence News: Lockheed Martin signed a pact with Tata Advanced Systems(TAS), to produce the latest version of its F-16 fighter jets in India. The Lockheed-TAS’s joint venture was announced at the Paris Air Show on Monday Lockheed-Tata venture will “produce, operate and export the F-16 Block 70 aircraft” under the “Make in India” framework if selected.
It’s a significant move to strengthen the Strategic Partnership(SP)under the Make in India framework and which is been going on since the last month which envisages joint ventures between global armament majors and Indian private sector companies. Under the SP policy, foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) will be selected in a parallel process.
The Lockheed and TAS tie-up now firmly pitch the F-16 against the Swedish Gripen-E fighter manufactured by Saab. Both F-16 and Gripen were the only single-engine jets among the six contenders in India’s original MMRCA project to acquire 126 jets, in which the French Rafale fighter had eventually emerged the winner.
The Central government had already given a go-ahead for getting the 36 Rafales on board costing Rs59000 crore. Under the campaign at least 100 fighters will be produced and the order could go up to over 200 jets, since the F-18s, Rafales, Eurofighter Typhoon and MiG-35s are all twin-engine.
Ministry of Defence sources on Monday said the “actual deal or contract” for the second assembly line is “still a long way off” since the process for the selecting the Indian private sector firm as the “strategic partner” for production of fighters will itself take “several months”, which will be followed by the extensive bidding and negotiation process.
Interesting to analyse how Make in India drive will suffice againt US President Donald Trump’s hard-nosed policy to not allow jobs and factories to be shifted out of America as the Lockheed and Tata on their part, said moving the F-16 production base from Forth Worth in Texas to India would still retain jobs in the US.
Of the over 4,500 F-16s manufactured over the years, with production lines in Europe and other countries like Turkey and South Korea apart from the US, around 3,200 are still flown by 26 countries, including Pakistan.