In what come as a huge boost to the Modi government’s flagship “Make in India” campaign, a latest Economic Times report has stated that as per a senior executive of Lockheed Martin, the leading defence company will begin supplying wings for its F-16 fighter jets from a facility in Southern India from 2020. Speaking about Lockheed’s future plans in India, Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics has said that the wings of all future F-16s that will be sold worldwide would be manufactured in India in a joint venture with India’s Tata Advanced Systems in the southern city of Hyderabad. He said, “The first wing prototype is being built now. The expectation is we will begin supplying by next year sometime, this will be the sole facility for future F-16 wing production.”
According to the report, Lockheed is also bidding for contract of over $15 billion, to supply India with 114 combat aircraft. It has also offered to shift its production base from the US to India and plans to build an upgraded version of the combat aircraft that it calls F-21. Earlier, this year Lockheed Martin said that F-21 would be made exclusively for India and it would not sell the fighter jets to any other country if India places an order for 114 aircrafts. Vivek Lall, vice president of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin had said, “We will not sell this platform and the configuration to anyone in the world. It is a significant commitment by Lockheed Martin and it shows importance of India and importance of unique requirement India has.” Lockheed is one among several competitors such as Boeing with its F/A-18 Super Hornet, Saab with its Gripen fighter, Dassault with the Rafale aircraft, etc. even as Indian Air Force is looking at options to replace its vintage MiG fighters.
Speaking about the massive ecosystem of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 combat aircraft, Lall said that currently there are around 3,000 F-16s flying around the world and more orders are on the cards with countries like Bahrain. There is an estimated market value of $165 billion for after-sales support. He stated, “It is a huge potential business, India will be plugging into the world’s largest fighter jet ecosystem.”
Shortly after coming into power, PM Modi had launched the Make in India initiative under which it wanted to persuade the global manufacturers, including those in the defence sector, to look towards India as a manufacturing centre. This was expected to build a domestic industrial base in India and also generate jobs. Now, with companies like Lockheed Martin clearly showing interest in shifting their manufacturing base and choosing India as the new centre, it is clear that almost five years after it was launched, the Make in India campaign is moving in the right direction.