Thursday, August 4, 2016

F-16 Block 70, 'For India, From India : Exported to the World'

Lockheed Martin, the US manufacturer of the F-16 fighter aircraft has offered to shift its Fortworth Texas based production line to India, thereby honouring the Make in India project of Prime Minister Modi, if India decides to buy the latest and the most advanced F-17 Block-70 aircraft for the Indian Air Force. 

Pakistan is also one of the users of F-16 fighter jet, and when asked about exports to Pakistan, Randall Howard, a Lockheed Martin official said, "I cant speculate about a potential sale to Pakistan what will happen in the future. Decisions for sale of fighter aircraft will depend on the Govt's decision."

The Block 70 is the most advanced of all F-16s. There are 27 countries in the world who fly these planes, with the latest to join in two months time will be Romania. 

The Block 70 F-16 will have the 5th generation fighter radar capabilities, some of which are greater detection and tracking ranges, multiple target track, high resolution synthetic aperture radar, auto target classification and cueing, advanced growth modes.

About giving India the data link of the radar technology of NATO standard, Howard said,"Its a Govt to Govt decision, but while technology can be shared, exact design and composition is not shared, plus it is made by another company, which is Northrop Grumman."

Lockheed martin has been in talks with the Indian Govt since April to bring the Texas production line to India, and 2017 is the timeframe they are looking at. About jobs being impacted back home in the US, Howard said that the F-35 fighter jet facility will be ramped up, meaning the F-16 workers will be absorbed there. 

Lockheed is in talks with the Indian private industry also. It already has a joint venture with the Hyderabad-based TASL for making and exporting of the C-130 J transport aircraft fuselage. However the officials didnot disclose if they would approach TASL for the F-16 tie-up. Abhay Paranjpe of Lockheed Martin said, they were talking to a lot of industry people.

Though F-16 lost the race in the IAF's MMRCA contract for 126 fighters, but Howard said about Indian govt's interest that,"There is a level of interest in the F-16,  we have not been told to go away'. 

It may be noted that the other US fighter jet manufacturer Boeing has also offered the Indian Govt its F-18 fighter under Make in India.

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