In what could be a major boost to the ‘Make in India’ campaign, the US fighter jet maker Lockheed Martin has said that it is ready manufacture F-16 aircraft in India and that it supports the ongoing talks between the two countries to set up t h first manufacturing facility. If undertaken, then this will be the largest project under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
“We are ready to manufacture F-16 in India and support the Make in India initiative,” Phil Shaw, chief executive of Lockheed Martin India Private Ltd told reporters at the Singapore Airshow 2016. However, Shaw did not commit on any time-frame to have the plant operational, saying the group supports the ongoing government-to-government talks.
Currently, Lockheed Martin manufactures one jet a month from its plant in the US and has a series of contracts and joint ventures in India with over 1,000 employees. The company has already supplied six C130J Super Hercules planes to India in 2001 and will be delivering another six helicopters by next year.
One reason why the company is interested in manufacturing in India is because of the demand from the Indian Armed Forces and also, it would want to lower the cost of planes for exports by using the low-cost capability in India.
“Both the US government and Lockheed Martin see the advantage of placing a manufacturing base in India and make F-16 affordable for emerging markets,” informed a source said. The making of F-16, which will be among the largest projects under the Make in India initiative, will be conditional to the Indian government making a contractual commitment to buy the fighter jets for its armed forces, said the source. “Washington, in return, would ensure technology transfer to the Indian engineering sector and a huge boost to Indian exports,” he said. If the two governments reach an agreement this year or 2017, putting aside all differences on the mega project and the US’ move to supply eight F-16 to Pakistan, Lockheed Martin could roll out the first made in India jet in 2019-2020, said the source. Lockheed Martin has already decided on India as its best option for low-cost and highly qualified engineering workforce, and the final go on this is dependent on approval from New Delhi and Washington
(With Inputs From PTI)