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Tata Advanced Systems, a division of the Tata Group, may start making F-16 fighter jets with Lockheed Martin, the largest military contractor in the world, soon. That's not it; they will be manufacturing the jets in India. © Twitter This is great news for PM Narendra Modi just days before he heads to the United States to meet with President Donald Trump. There is one caveat though. Their F-16 Block 70 fighter jet needs to win a bid against Saab's Gripen fighter jet for producing 100-200 single-engine fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. © Twitter Even though Saab hasn't yet announced an Indian collaborator for its newer aircraft, the Adani Group and Mahindra Group are frontrunners as of now. © Twitter If they win the contract, Lockheed-Martin will shift its manufacturing base from Texas to India. They believe there is an export potential of $15 billion in this region apart from the IAF contract. Apart from full service for the F-16s, Tata will also be responsible for all upgrades on the aircraft. India, the largest importer of weapons in the world, feels they need this upgrade to their current line-up of MiGs which have already surpassed their expiry date as tensions with Pakistan and China grow. © Twitter But, one thing which most news agencies are ignoring is the fact that the F-16 is an outdated aircraft as well. Even the latest version of the jet, the Block 70, which is being offered to India, is still way behind what the United States is using. The US Air Force has already started the process of replacing the F-16s with the F-35s, a much more advanced fighter, and experts are viewing this move by Lockheed as a means of offloading the jets on India. © Lockheed-Martin While this is still going to be a great move for the Indian economy and Modi's “Make in India” plans, countries like Denmark, Japan, Israel, and South Korea have already ordered F-35s. Yes, it is an upgrade, but who is the biggest winner here? Lockheed or India? © Twitter One company that seems to be making the most of this though is Tata Advanced Systems. The F-16s will be manufactured exclusively in India if this approx. $2 billion deal goes through. While Tata does have some experience in the defence sector, we can't help but feel like this is more a case of getting rid of fighters more than anything else.
LE BOURGET: Lockheed Martin has agreed with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd to jointly build F-16 fighter planes equipped with new-generation electronics in India, both companies said on Monday. The fighters are of the Block 70 type, "the newest and most technologically advanced F-16 ever", they said. "The F-16 Block 70 is ideally suited to meet the Indian Air Force´s single-engine fighter needs and this unmatched US-Indian industry partnership directly supports India´s initiative to develop private aerospace and defense manufacturing capacity in India," said the statement, released on the Paris air show´s opening day. The Indian air force does not currently use F-16s, but industry experts say that local production would be a strong argument in favour of the US plane against its rivals, including French company Dassault´s Rafale, in future procurement decisions. India in 2016 agreed to buy 36 Rafale combat planes for around eight billion euros. Accompanying that deal was a partnership agreement between Dassault and India´s Reliance Group and a promise by Dassault to invest about half of the value of the contract in India. The French company recently said it was in talks for India to buy at least 50 more. India, the world´s top defence importer, is conducting a $100-billion upgrade of its Soviet-era military hardware, facing border disputes with its northern and western neighbours, China and Pakistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has moved to reduce India´s reliance on expensive imports and called for the manufacturing of defence equipment locally. Modi´s government has raised the limit on foreign investment in the defence sector and encouraged tie-ups between foreign and local companies. The announcement comes a week before Modi visits Washington for talks with President Donald Trump, who has been putting pressure on American companies to keep production at home. The multi-role F-16 has been in production since 1978, with Lockheed so far producing a total of 4,500 units of the aircraft of which 3,200 are currently in service. Tata Advanced Systems Ltd, a subsidiary of Tata Sons, already runs manufacturing partnerships with several global players, including Boeing, Airbus and Sikorsky.