WASHINGTON: US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has offered to sign an exclusive deal to India for newly rolled out F-21 fighter jet, telling New Delhi that it will not sell this aircraft to any other country if India agrees to buy it.
Last month, the Indian Air Force (IAF) issued initial tender to acquire 114 jets at a cost of around $18 billion, which is one of the world’s biggest military procurement in recent years.
Lockheed’s F-21, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft Mig 35 and Saab’s Gripen are the top contenders for the deal.
“Lockheed Martin is committed to strategic, long-term international defence partnerships with India,” said a statement the company released on Tuesday. “Our proposed partnerships with India … are ideally suited to not just meet, but exceed India’s capability and defence-industrial needs.”
Noting India has a pressing need for advanced, scalable defence capabilities, Lockheed Martin proposed a “game-changing” defence partnership.
Vivek Lall, vice president of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin, told India’s PTI news agency “we will not sell this platform and the configuration to anyone in the world” if India concludes a deal with the country.
He said that India will be integrated into the company’s global fighter ecosystem, which is a $165 billion dollar market that benefit multiple stakeholders in India, the US and beyond.
In a separate statement, the company said that Lockheed Martin and Tata would jointly produce the F-21 in India, for India. The aircraft will specifically configured for the Indian Air Force, the F-21 and will provide unmatched ‘Make in India’ opportunities, the company added.
Lockheed Martin is also trying to sell helicopters and other platform to the Indian Air Force.
Indian official sources told PTI that the IAF “is pushing for finalising the mega deal in the wake of the Balakot strikes and evolving security scenario in the region.”
The F-21 has a Long-Range Infrared Search and Track (IRST), enabling pilots to detect threats with precision and Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs) allowing it to carry 40 per cent more air-to-air weapons.
In September, Lockheed Martin finalised a joint venture with the Tata Advanced Systems to produce F-16 wings in India for export.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019