Major U.S. defence firm, Lockheed Martin sees export potential worth more than 20 billion dollars for F-16 aircraft for which the company will set up an assembly line in India. “We see current demand outside of India of more than 200 aircraft. The value of those initial acquisition programs would likely exceed $20 billion,” said Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
A few countries like Bahrain and Bulgaria have already agreed to purchase F-16 Block 70 which is among 7 major competitors for 114 fighter aircrafts India is expected to purchase in upcoming years. “We are in discussions with Bulgaria, several other countries, 10 countries. There is a kind of a renaissance of the F-16,” said Lall. The company is also one of seven contenders for a defence deal of 114 fighter aircrafts.
Lockheed Martin is the largest defence contractor in the world. Company’s total revenue for 2017 was 43.5 billion with 92 percent coming from defence. This is almost double of BAR system, second largest defence contractor in the world. F-16s of Lockheed Martin are one of the best fifth-generation aircraft in the world. Its competitors are Boeing F/A-18E and F/A-18F Super Hornet (United States), Gripen-E (Sweden), MiG-35 (Russia), Eurofighter Typhoon and Rafale and Sukhoi-35 (Russia).
Lockheed Martin has said that India would be a major beneficiary if it chooses F-16 for fighter aircraft deal. The company would move its assembly line to India from the United States to support Modi government’s Make in India initiative in the defence sector. “If India buys the F-16 then it becomes the centre of manufacturing for the global market. Choosing Lockheed’s warplane would integrate India into a global F-16 supply chain worth $165 billion”, said Lall. F-16 is one of the most popular combat aircraft in the world. 4,604 F-16s air-crafts have been procured by 28 countries around the world. 3,000 operational F-16s are operational in 25 air forces including the mighty US Air force.
Last year, Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) announced their intent to join hands to produce the F-16 Block 70 in India if the aircraft is selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF). IAF needs more than 100 fifth-generation fighter aircrafts to fight a two-front war with China and Pakistan in the future. The defence ministry has asked domestic and global companies to bid for the deal and Lockheed Martin is one of the major contenders.
A few months back, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had said that India should be prepared for two front wars. The gradual mingling of China and Pakistan could lead to a breakout of wars on two fronts with our northern and western neighbor. The development of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Chinese loans to debt-ridden country suggest that Pakistan is on its way to become a colony of China. So, for all practical reasons the interests of Pakistan will be interests of China in the upcoming years. The purchase of 114 fighter jets will prepare the country for a two-front war.