Make-In-India: F-16s Could Be Built Here, Much Depends Now On Donald Trump
Express News Global
- Trump has criticised American companies that manufacture overseas
- Lockheed plans to build F-16s in India, but not sell them back to the US
- Lockheed claims moving F-16 assembly to India will help create jobs in US
With no more orders for the F-16 from the Pentagon, Lockheed plans to use its Fort Worth, Texas plant instead to produce the fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that the United States Air Force is transitioning to.
Lockheed would switch F-16 production to India, as long as India agrees to order hundreds of the planes that its air force desperately needs.
In Lockheed’s case, however, the plan is to build the F-16 to equip the Indian Air Force, and not sell them back into the United States.
“We are offering to make the F-16 Block-70 aircraft with a local partner in India. This is an offer exclusive to India,” Randall L. Howard, head of F-16 business development, told Reuters ahead of India’s biggest air show beginning in Bengaluru next week.
Lockheed said it has been talking to Trump’s transition and governance teams as well as the U.S. Congress for several months on its plans, including the proposed sale of F-16 planes to India, a spokesman told Reuters in Washington.
“We’ve briefed the Administration on the current proposal, which was supported by the Obama Administration as part of a broader cooperative dialogue with the Government of India,” the spokesman said.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the plan to build the plane in India.
Lockheed has said that moving F-16 assembly to India would create 200 engineering jobs in the United States to help support the production line in India.
It has also said that about 800 workers in the United States making the non-Lockheed parts for the F-16 would keep their jobs if construction shifts to India.
The Indian air force alone needs 200-250 fighters over the next 10 years, its former chief Arup Raha said before he left office in December.
Defence ties between India and the United States have grown rapidly, with U.S. arms sales of more than $4 billion in 2012-15, mostly under government-to-government foreign military sales, upstaging long-term supplier Russia and even Israel.
Lockheed’s executive director for international business development, Abhay Paranjape, said his team has met with representatives from 40 defence and aviation firms in India to help build the ancillary network for the aircraft assembly programme.
“We want to be prepared, that’s why we started the ground work,” he said, adding Lockheed has also scouted possible factory sites in India.