| PARIS, June 19
PARIS, June 19 Lockheed Martin signed an
agreement with India's Tata Advanced Systems on Monday to
produce F-16 fighter planes in India, pressing ahead with a plan
to shift its Fort Worth, Texas plant to win billions of dollars
worth of order from the Indian military.
India's air force needs hundreds of aircraft to replace its
Soviet-era fleet, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government
has said foreign suppliers would have to make the planes in
India with a local partner to help build a domestic industrial
base and cut outright imports.
But Modi's Make-in-India drive runs the risk of conflicting
with U.S. President Donald Trump's America First campaign under
which he has been pressing for companies to invest in the United
States and create jobs instead of setting up factories abroad.
In announcing their agreement at the Paris Airshow, Lockheed
and Tata said moving the production base to India would still
retain jobs in the United States.
"F-16 production in India supports thousands of Lockheed
Martin and F-16 supplier jobs in the U.S., creates new
manufacturing jobs in India, and positions Indian industry at
the center of the most extensive fighter aircraft supply
ecosystem in the world," a joint statement by the firms said.
Sweden's Saab is the other contender to supply
the Indian Air Force, offering to make its Gripen fighter in
India. It has not yet announced a local partner for the plane
which it has pitched as a modern alternative to the F-16s.
The announcement comes days before Modi travels to
Washington for a first meeting with Trump, scheduled for June.
26. India and the United States have built a close defence
relationship in recent years with Washington emerging as among
the top three arms suppliers to India, along with Russia and
India will also have the chance to export the F-16 that is
flown by air forces around the world, the joint statement said.
Some 3,200 of these planes are being flown by 26 countries and
the model that is being offered to India will be Block 70, the
most modern of all the F-16s.
"This unprecedented F-16 production partnership between the
world’s largest defense contractor and India’s premier
industrial house 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
multi-role fighter," the statement said.
Tata is already building airframe components for the C-130
military transport aircraft.
India has not opened formal bidding for the jet order, which
is expected to be anything from 100 planes to 250.
(Additional reporting by eporting by Bangalore Newsroom;
Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Mark Potter)