A model of an F-16 fighter jet, manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp., stands on display at the company’s booth during the Aero India air show at Air Force Station Yelahanka in Bengaluru. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)  

Defence Expo 2018: Lockheed Martin Eyes India As Export Hub For F-16s

U.S. defence major Lockheed Martin is looking to set up F-16 facilities in India to manufacture and export the single engine fighter jets – a shot in the arm for the Make in India project.

“The fighters we offer are state of the art with modern avionics and we are willing to transfer technology to build in India as part of Make in India,” Randall Howard who leads F-16 business development at Lockheed Martin told BloombergQuint in an interview. He was speaking on the sidelines of the Defence Expo 2018 in Chennai.

The facilities in India will also supply jets for the region through exports, Howard said, adding that more than 4,000 F-16s have been sold to countries across the world so far.

Lockheed Martin has tied up with the Tata Group to manufacture parts for the C-130J aircraft. To expand this partnership, Lockheed is pitching its F-16 fighter jets for a tender for 110 combat aircraft worth at least $15 billion. This is part of the strategic partnership programme which allows local companies to form manufacturing joint ventures with foreign defence equipment makers. Besides, the government recently proposed to allow foreign direct investment of up to 74 percent for niche technologies.

“We are currently looking at setting up ecosystems and will have to set up many facilities including one with a runway to produce the F-16 in flyway conditions,” said Howard. The single engine fighter jet will compete with Saab’s Gripen and Dassault’s Rafale jets.

The F-16 project was approved by the U.S. government and setting up facilities will not impact jobs in the U.S., Howard said. Besides, not all parts will be produced in India. The fighter jets require equipments and parts that will continue to create jobs in the U.S., he added.

Lockheed Martin is also looking sell its Javelin missiles and government-to-government discussions are currently underway, said Haley Donoho of Lockheed Martin.