American global aerospace, defense and security company Lockheed Martin proposed to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter planes in India, which would provide the latter a chance to become part of the world’s biggest fighter aircraft ecosystem. 

Lockheed Martin’s vice president of strategy and business development, Vivek Lall, said during an interview with the Press Trust of India (PTI), “We plan to introduce two new words into the lexicon of international fighter aircraft manufacturing: 'India' and ‘exclusive.’”

Lall, an Indian-American who played a pivotal role last year in the decision taken by Donald Trump administration to sell top quality unarmed drones from General Atomics, continued, “India-specific state-of-the-art fighter production in India will be exclusive, something that has never before been presented by any other fighter aircraft manufacturer, past or present. ... There will also be a significant export market available for Indian-made fighters.”

He added the move will give the Indian industry an opportunity to be part of the world’s biggest fighter aircraft ecosystem as the custom made F-16 fighter plane project’s size, scope and success will allow the industry to take full advantage of the manufacturing, upgrade and sustainment process into the future. 

The report quoted Lall saying, “We intend to create far more than an assembly line in India.” 

He also stressed the three versions of the F-16 plane were single-engine aircrafts and “the fighter being offered specifically to India is uniquely the best state-of-the-art fighter.”  

With regards to the project, Lall also claimed there were no other advanced fourth generation platforms that came near to matching the record of real-time fighting experience and operational efficiency. 

The systems being used in India majorly were based on the lessons learned and technologies from F-22 and F-35 planes produced by Lockheed Martin, he added. 

The advanced APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), produced by American global aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman, which was installed in Lockheed Martin’s F-16 Block 70 fighter plane gave the plane fifth generation radar capabilities through leveraging hardware and software commonality, Lall stated. 

He also said the F-16 fighter jets paved a road towards establishing business relationships for Lockheed Martin, which is the only company in the world that produced, developed and designed fifth generation fighter planes. 

With relation to the F-16 fighter plane project in India, Lall stated it would give the Indian companies of various sizes, which included micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and suppliers, a wealth of opportunities to build a business with not only Lockheed Martin but also with major industries in United States and other parts of the world. 

He informed most of the fighter planes, which will be manufactured in India by Lockheed Martin, would have similarities with fifth generation F-22 and F-35 fighter planes. These aircrafts consisted of the most modern forms of avionics, modernized cockpit, advanced weaponry along with a proven AESA radar and evolved engines which had an extended service life. 

“Many of the advances in systems on the aircraft India would get draw directly from key lessons learned from Lockheed Martin's work on the F-22 and the F-35,” Lall said. “The AESA radar is the result of over two decades of investment, use and experience with AESA technology, and it's fully operational today.”

Correction: An earlier version of the story wrongly said Lockheed Martin was going to manufacture the F-35 fighter jet in India.