US defence firm Lockheed Martin wants to push ahead with plans to move production of its F-16 combat jets to India, but understands President Donald Trump's administration may want to take a “fresh look” at the proposal.

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 the Indian government agrees to order hundreds of the planes that its air force desperately needs.

Trump has criticised US companies that have moved manufacturing overseas and which then sell their products back to the US In his first few weeks in office, he has pushed companies, from automakers to pharmaceutical firms, to produce more in the United States.

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.

Lockheed said it has been talking to Trump's transition and governance teams as well as the US 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.

“We understand that the Trump Administration will want to take a fresh look at some of these programs, and we stand prepared to support that effort to ensure that any deal of this importance is properly aligned with US policy priorities.”

India is expected to spend $250 billion on defence modernisation over the next decade, analysts say, and there is concern that a veto on making the F-16 in India would not only hit Lockheed, but also threaten other military contracts to come up in India for Boeing, Northrop and Raytheon .

The White House did not respond to requests for comment on the plan to build the plane in India.

No threat to US jobs

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.

“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.

In India, the F-16 is up against SAAB's Gripen combat aircraft, which the Swedish firm has also offered to make locally, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi drives a Make-in-India campaign to build a domestic aerospace industry and reduce costly imports.

The Indian government is expected to decide this year on which company will build a single-engine fighter plane, in collaboration with a local partner.

A defence official said the process was at a very early stage.

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 US 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.

Lockheed has a joint venture with India's Tata Advanced Systems Ltd to make airframe components for the C-130J Super Hercules transport plane and the S-92 helicopter.

“The capability for building components exists here, it's been proven with the C-130s. The challenge now is to pick the right partners,” Paranjape said.

Opinion

Let women be, control the man
Updated 11 Apr 2021

Let women be, control the man

Men need to be educated and then read the riot act. The enforcement of the law must be merciless in such cases.
Twixt torch & tray
11 Apr 2021

Twixt torch & tray

Some may say that the lawyers’ indignation is not without merit.
Behaviour bond
10 Apr 2021

Behaviour bond

States have turned the imitation of repressive laws into an art form...

Editorial

11 Apr 2021

Dissension within PTI

WITH the dust from the PDM’s implosion still not fully settled, the PTI is now faced with growing dissension from...
11 Apr 2021

Power to arrest

A SUPREME Court verdict announced on Thursday spelled out what might be considered a self-evident truth in any...
11 Apr 2021

Unequal vaccine distribution

IT is in times of crisis that we often see the best — or worst — of humanity. In this regard, the pandemic has...
10 Apr 2021

Greater tax burden

THE FBR’s tax target of Rs6tr for the next year under the IMF-mandated fiscal adjustment policies will increase ...
UK travel ban
Updated 10 Apr 2021

UK travel ban

Pakistan continued to allow passengers to arrive without quarantine requirements.
10 Apr 2021

IS in Mozambique

IT was not too long ago when the dreaded shock troops of the self-declared Islamic State group were rampaging ...