F-16s – the world’s most widely used fighter planes will now come with a Made in India seal, with production expertise by America’s Lockheed Martin which was on the verge of shutting down its Texas assembly line because of lack of orders. This is as good as it gets ahead of a Modi-Trump summit meeting next Monday.
On the sidelines of the Paris Air Show, Tata Advanced Systems signed a deal with Lockheed Martin to produce F-16 fighter planes in India – just the kind of package deal neatly tied up with a red ribbon that Donald Trump relishes and one that sits well with Modi’s Make in India initiative too.
India has been shopping around for 200 new fighter planes because the existing MiG 21s fleet is old and accident prone. Reuters reports that Lockheed’s leader of F-16 business development Phil Howard clarified that the deal will not cross wires in Washington where Donald Trump’s America First campaign insists on creating jobs at home.
“Lockheed has met and briefed the current U.S. administration on its plan, and Howard said he had a sense of full support from the Trump administration”, reports Reuters.
“It is true that the F-16’s capabilities are well known to potential adversaries, particularly the Pakistanis, who have flown the aircraft since the 1980s. But this is a trade off inherent in getting one of the world’s most proven combat aircraft. More important, the Block-70 version of the F-16 that India would produce features upgrades in avionics and operational capabilities that far outstrip the older Pakistani planes. And India would likely be able to veto future F-16 sales to sensitive states such as Pakistan. Pakistani familiarity with the F-16, then, is not a reason to avoid it”, experts S Paul Kapur and Sumit Ganguly have said long before this deal was inked.
Experts say the “technically sophisticated” F-16s will bring India and US closer – much more than an Indo-Swedish cooperation on the Gripen.
The F-16 Block 70 is the plane the companies will jointly produce in India. “The F-16 Block 70 is ideally suited to meet the Indian Air Force’s single-engine fighter needs”, a joint statement said.
As things stand, America, Russia and Israel are the top three arms suppliers to India.
“F-16 production in India supports thousands of Lockheed Martin and F-16 supplier jobs in the U.S., creates new manufacturing jobs in India, and positions Indian industry at the center of the most extensive fighter aircraft supply ecosystem in the world,” a joint statement by the firms said.
India will also have the chance to export the F-16 that is flown by air forces around the world, the joint statement said. Some 3,200 of these planes are being flown by 26 countries and the model that is being offered to India will be Block 70, the most modern of all the F-16s.
SOURCE & CREDITS: FIRSTPOST