Aerospace and Defence major Lockheed Martin, which has offered to bring its only functional F-16 fighter jet manufacturing facility to India, says that it is not selling an aircraft with a dead shelf-life.
Reports quoting experts in the US have debated that the aircraft’s current orders can only keep it running up to 2017, or 2020, at best. However, Randall L Howard, F-16 business development head, told TOI: “I understand the concerns, but we are confident of bagging orders for at least 100 aircraft (not including from India) in the next 5-7 years.”
Stating that the firm had a positive conversation with Indonesia just last week, he said: “Conversations are also currently on with multiple countries in South-America, Middle East (West Asia) and Eastern Europe. We expect good business from these countries. A lot of Eastern European countries are currently using Soviet-era fighters with or without integration of western technology.”
Abhay Paranjape, director, business development-India, said: “Many of our international customers are repeat customers, who keep coming back to us.” Howard said that the firm has sold 4,588 F-16 aircraft to 27 countries, of which 16 of them have come back to them.
“These 16 countries together have given repeat orders 55 times saying they want more. F-16s are cheaper than most in their class, faster and can go farther than every other plane. It can also carry more firepower,” Howard said.
In the first major effort after making the conditional offer to shift the manufacturing facility to India, Lockheed Martin met with 40 potential Indian suppliers in Bengaluru. “There are those who can make bits and pieces, components, sub-systems, structures and even support equipment. We are making a presentation to them,” Howard said.
He added that not only will India be making for India, but also to the world. “There are 3,200 fighters that they will need to feed (components and parts) and take care of (maintenance). There is a huge business opportunity there.”
On how different this offer is from facilities that operated in South Korea, Belgium, the Netherlands and Turkey, Paranjape said: “Those were licensed manufacturing, mostly assembly and they made it for their own countries. What we offer India is the exclusive production facility. There is currently no other such facility barring the one in US and when that come here, it will be only India that makes F16s.”
On the constraints of transfer of technology (ToT), which US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James had raised as per reports in the US, Howard said: “We did not come to India with the offer as a individual company. We were here along with the US government. There will be a few issues, but from the nose to tail (of the aircraft) we will try to offer as much as we can in an affordable way. Obviously, not everything can be made here.”
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Source: Defence Update