A renewed push for the jet aircraft project came during the Parrikar visit, with an assurance that high-end jet engine technology that India seeks for its future combat aircraft programmes is also on the table. In fact, officials told ET that US Secretary for Defence Ashton Carter may be visiting India as early as December to take the process forward. Sources who took part in the discussions said that while in April, when the two US companies had first offered the two jets for a Make in India plan, there was reluctance in Washington on how much technology could be shared.
However recent initiatives, including India’s entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and the signing of a military logistics support agreement, have changed things on the ground. It is learnt that the offer from Boeing, which makes the F/A 18, is for the setting up of a new worldclass production facility in India that would cater to the production of futuristic combat aircraft. Lockheed Martin proposes to shift its F 16 fighter line from Texas to India as the sole production facility in the world. As reported first by ET, in April rivals Boeing and Lockheed Martin jointly met top defence ministry officials in New Delhi offering to locally manufacture the fighter jets. The offer came after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar publicly stated that the ministry is interested in setting up production lines for ‘one or two’ fighters at the earliest, beyond the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.