Armed with 4588 orders, 4573 deliveries and 40 years of production experience, US defence major, Lockheed Martin is set at moving the entire production line of F-16 fighter jets to India from its only operational facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
In sync with Make in India, Lockheed Martin is all out to move the production facility of its F-16 next generation fighters to India. ‘We have had a round of discussions earlier this year with the U.S. government, the government of India and the Indian industry partners about this opportunity. At this stage Indian government has been supplied with all data to support an informed decision’ said Abhay Paranjape, National Executive, India of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. He however mentioned, that shifting of the assembly line is conditional to some assured orders from the India.
Randall L Howard - F-16 Business Development, Lockheed Martin & Abhay Paranjape - National Executive, India, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
Highlighting the partnership strengths, Randall L. Howard from the F-16 Business Development team at Lockheed Martin added, ‘we have an unmatched Industrial partnership experience and we have established the industrial capability in country after country’. Lockheed had delivered a total of 958 fighters from its partnerships with SABCA-Belgium, Fokker-Netherlands, TAI-Turkey and KAI-Korea apart from 3616 deliveries from its facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
‘In India, we are already making components for the worldwide fleet’, added Abhay. Lockheed Martin has partnered with TATA Advanced Systems Limited.
The C-130J airlifter sold internationally contains major aero structure assemblies manufactured in India and each S-92 medium-lift helicopter built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, has a cabin manufactured in Hyderabad.
Describing the next gen fighter, Randall pointed on the advantages, ‘Block 70 is most advanced F-16 ever and it will be made in India with an Indian company, this next generation fighter is an evolution of the proven design of the mid-life update (MLU) and common configuration improvement programme (CCIP). The fighter is equipped with latest technology in avionics equipment, operational capabilities, joint helmet cueing systems II and has an unparalleled survivability with modern internal electronic warfare system along with certified advanced weapons onboard’.
Jayant Baranwal, Editor-in-Chief, SP Guide Publications spoke to Randall L. Howard and Abhay Paranjape of Lockheed Martin. Excerpts:
Jayant Baranwal (Baranwal): Does F-16 Block 70 offer any kind of stealth element?
Randall L. Howard (Howard): True stealth in all aspects has to be designed within the aircraft, that’s not the kind of stuff that comes with any aircraft but for F-22 and F-35. Having said that, F-16 offers a lot of general stealth, as it is a small aircraft and it has a pretty small cross section. There is coding that can be placed on the aircraft. The fighter includes a new radar system, stealth detection capability and threat detection capability; it competes very well in its class being undetectable to the radar.
Baranwal: What exactly is the offer of Lockheed Martin, also in the context of Make in India?
Abhay Paranjape (Paranjape): We are not looking at just assembling India’s aircraft here. We are looking at establishing the complete manufacturing base and the ecosystem here in India. We are looking at transferring our entire production from our existing Fort Worth facility to India and also exporting them from here. So what that means also, is, we now have a vested interest in making sure that it succeeds. Lockheed Martin is going to be selling aircraft made here to the world and we will make sure that it succeeds.
Baranwal: Which particular program of Indian Air Force you are aiming for with the F-16 block 70?
Paranjape: You are very well aware that the MMRCA programme was about 126 odd aircraft. The Rafale is going though in final stages right now and is apparently for much smaller number. The MMRCA proposal came out in 2007 and we are in 2016, so we definitely think there is significant number of aircraft that will be required going forward, how many, what type, what and when exactly, that is up to the Indian Air Force.
Baranwal: Can F-16 compliment the LCA induction?
Paranjape: The induction of an aircraft into the force is obviously the decision of India Air Force’. You saw the briefing from Howard, as far as the capability; you can look it up as far as LCA’s capabilities, the range and the type and compare that with F-16 and you can see.
Baranwal: What will be the turnaround time for the first delivery from the Indian facility post the decision? Can you give an exact timeline?
Howard: I think it is hard to give an exact timeline. The typical delivery period of F-16 is about 36 months range. The challenge we have is to train the workforce and put in place all the facility. We have given a notional time-line to the government on the production. To be very specific in the public forum is very hard, because there are lot of variables and dependencies. But I can say that we have done these many-many times and we have a proven track record of having it done successfully.
Baranwal: As per recent reports, we believe that you are expecting a potential business worth $15 billion in India?
Howard: According to us this is a very conservative figure. We believe if the things fall in place then the potential of business is way too bigger than $15billion.