ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailMenu BurgerPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon SearchSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
Business

F-16 deal turns on the afterburners for 'Make in India'

Lockheed and Tata help Modi get his industrial vision off the ground

Tata group and Lockheed Martin executives sign the F-16 agreement. (Courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

MUMBAI -- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make in India" campaign just received a big push, with Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems signing a deal to produce F-16 fighter jets in the country.

The F-16 will be the second fighter aircraft produced in India, after the homegrown Tejas, which started rolling off the line in 2001 to replace the military's Russian MiG-21s.

In a joint statement, the U.S. and Indian contractors said the F-16 Block 70 model is ideally suited to meeting the Indian Air Force's single-engine fighter needs, and that this "unprecedented" industrial partnership directly supports the South Asian country's efforts to develop private aerospace and defense manufacturing capacity.

The deal "provides India the opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft, the newest and most advanced version of the world's most successful, combat-proven multirole fighter," the companies said.

All told, there are currently around 3,200 operational F-16s in 26 countries. 

Tata Advanced Systems already manufactures airframe components for Lockheed's C-130J airlifter and S-92 helicopter. "This agreement builds on the already established joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Tata and underscores the relationship and commitment between the two companies," said N. Chandrasekaran, chairman of holding company Tata Sons.

The companies also emphasized they are answering Modi's "Make in India" call. The government has relaxed the foreign direct investment rules for the defense sector to attract private players.

India's former defense minister had previously said the government was zeroing in on domestic production of either the F-16 or the Gripen, a jet made by Sweden's Saab.

Partners in high places

The Tata-Lockheed agreement, inked during the Paris Air Show, comes ahead of Modi's first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump next Monday.

In an apparent nod to the U.S. president's "American workers first" rhetoric, the partners' statement stressed that F-16 production in India would support thousands of supplier jobs stateside, while also creating new manufacturing jobs in India.

Over the last few years, India has been strengthening its ties with the U.S. in the defense sector, while maintaining its longstanding relationships with Russia and Israel. New Delhi sees military modernization as a priority, in light of tensions with neighbors China and Pakistan.

China has been slowly gaining influence in the Indian Ocean region -- including through projects in Karachi and Gwadar, in Pakistan, along with Colombo Port City and Hambantota, in Sri Lanka. China is also constructing roads and other infrastructure along the disputed land border with northeastern India.

India's territorial dispute with Pakistan, of course, remains unresolved.

The Modi government hopes to tilt the balance with greater private-sector involvement and increased competition. The idea is to substantially reduce India's dependence on defense imports and promote a strong domestic industry.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Get Unlimited access

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends May 26th

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media