Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to US on June 25, Lockheed Martin on Monday collaborated with Tata Advanced Systems to build F-16 fighter planes in India, reports said. According to sources Lockheed Martin and Tata signed an agreement in Paris on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show.
Lockheed Martin moved a step closer with its plan to shift its Fort Worth, Texas plant in order to get billions of dollars worth of order from the Indian military.
Indian Air Force requires to replace its Soviet-era fleet with hundreds of new aircrafts, but Modi government has said that the foreign suppliers would have to manufacture the planes in India in collaboration with a local partner. The government proposed this in a bid to help create a domestic industrial base and reduce imports.
Lockheed and Tata announced their agreement at the Paris Airshow. “F-16 production in India supports thousands of Lockheed Martin and F-16 supplier jobs in the U.S., creates new manufacturing jobs in India, and positions Indian industry at the center of the most extensive fighter aircraft supply ecosystem in the world,” a joint statement by the firms said.
Saab of Sweden is other contender to supply the Indian Air Force and offers to make its Gripen fighter in India. It has not announced a local partner.
The announcement comes days before PM Modi visits US and meets President Donald Trump for the first time on June 26.
“This unprecedented F-16 production partnership between the worlds largest defense contractor and Indias premier industrial house provides India the opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft, the newest and most advanced version of the worlds most successful, combat-proven multi-role fighter,” the statement said.