Under the deal with Tata Advanced Systems, Lockheed F-16 Block 70 fighters will be built in India instead of Fort Worth.
Accompanying that deal was a partnership agreement between Dassault and India’s Reliance Group and a promise by Dassault to invest about half of the value of the contract in India.
With the US Air Force phasing out the F16s, Lokheed Martin needs a sustainable ecosystem to continue production of the fighter planes and India, which is still dependent on foreign supplies for most of its defence equipment, needs a firm supplier.
The release noted this “unprecedented” partnership will allow India to produce, operate and export the F-16 Block 70.
Both parties signed the pact at Paris Air Show to produce F-16 Block 70 fighter jets in India as part of the Make in India initiative.
In August a year ago, Lockheed had offered to move its lone production line the F 16-Block 70 from Texas to India, the world’s top defence importer.
The Indian air force does not now use F-16s, but industry experts say that local production would be a strong argument in favour of the USA plane against its rivals, including French company Dassault’s Rafale, in future procurement decisions.
A joint press release said the deal will support “thousands of Lockheed Martin and F-16 supplier jobs in the USA, creates new manufacturing jobs in India”.
For Tata Advanced Systems, a deal with Lokheed Martin to produce the F16s would be a game changer as it will elevate the company from a aircraft parts supplier to a full-fledged manufacturer.
“This agreement builds on the already established joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Tata and underscores the relationship and commitment between the two companies”, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said. 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 U.S., around 3,200 are still flown by 26 countries, including Pakistan.
The announcement has come just days before PM Modi’s first meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington.
The Lockheed Martin-TASL F-16 partnering agreement builds on TASL’s proven performance manufacturing airframe components for the C-130J airlifter and the S-92 helicopter.
The F-35 is expected to make its air show debut at Paris later in the week in one of the most eagerly awaited flight demonstrations.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.