BANGALORE – According to Reuters, Lockheed Martin offered India a new combat jet – the F-21 – in a bid to win a large military order worth over $15 billion. This was unveiled by Lockheed Martin during Aero India 2019 in Bengaluru at the Yelahanka Air Force Station. The F-21 is a complete new variant of the F-16.
“The F-21 is different, inside and out,” Vivek Lall, vice president of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, said in a statement.
Lockheed Martin has offered to move its F-16 production plant at Fort Worth, Texas, to India, if it wins the order in a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India plan to build a domestic military industrial base and create jobs.
Lockheed Martin said it expected to export planes from the proposed plant in India on top of the Indian requirements for an overseas market that it estimated at $20 billion.
But the Indian military has had concerns over the F-16 as an old plane and in an earlier competition it lost out to the eventual winner, the Rafale built by Dassault. With the F-21 Lockheed Martin wants to offer India a new plane configured for its needs.
Lockheed Martin said the F-21 could be India’s pathway to the stealth F-35 fighter, which has entered U.S. service in one of the world’s most expensive defense programs.
“The F-21 has common components and learning from Lockheed Martin’s 5th Generation F-22 and F-35 and will share a common supply chain on a variety of components,” the company said.
The company will build the plane in collaboration with India’s Tata Advanced Systems, the firm said. It said production in India would create thousands of jobs for Indian industry
Lockheed Martin is competing with Boeing’s F/A-18, Saab’s Gripen, Dassault’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon and a Russian aircraft for the air force order to replace the Indian Air Force’s ageing fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets.
(Top image: from Lockheed Martin video on YouTube)