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International Relations

Lockheed to make F-16 wings in India with Tata

US contractor vies with Boeing team to build 110 air force fighters

A mechanic climbs into a U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.   © Reuters

NEW YORK -- Lockheed Martin will manufacture wings for its F-16 fighter jet in India with local partner Tata Advanced Systems under plans revealed by the American aerospace company on Tuesday.

"Producing F-16 wings in India will strengthen Lockheed Martin's strategic partnership with Tata and support 'Make in India,'" spokesman John Losinger told the Nikkei Asian Review.

The decision comes as "a natural next step that builds on Lockheed Martin's successful partnerships with Tata on the C-130J airlifter and S-92 helicopter," Losinger said.

Lockheed's commitment to India comes as the Indian Air Force prepares to purchase 110 fighter jets in what is seen as one of the world's largest contracts.

The company faces competition from an alliance of Boeing, India's state-run Hindustan Aeronautics and Mahindra Defence Systems, which together are pushing the F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter.

Tuesday's news also came days before a trip of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis to New Delhi, where they will meet with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The two sides are expected to discuss America's Indo-Pacific strategy and military cooperation with India. Trade, a major sticking point between many countries and U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, is also expected to come up.

In a conference call with reporters last month, a senior administration official outlined expectations for "progress and further deepening the ties between our two militaries and creating a framework for greater information sharing and interoperability."

"We are also eager to expand defense trade, which is estimated to reach 18 billion [dollars] by 2019 from essentially zero in 2008," he added.

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