Editor’s Note: Discussions have been flying under the radar in reference to Lockheed-Martin transferring all of its production of F-16s to India. A curious development, given all of the recent discussion of Block 52 Viper sales to Pakistan. The subject was mentioned during the Singapore Air Show by Mr. Phil Shaw, the head of Lockheed-Martin’s India operation. It will be curious to see how this one plays out, but one might expect backlash if Lockheed decides to move that portion of its operations overseas.
India has been up in arms, so to speak, over last month’s announcement that the U.S. proposed to sell eight F-16 combat aircraft to Pakistan.
Yet less than one week from that announcement, New Delhi got a hint that it might have a great opportunity to undercut Pakistan’s F-16 force posture – an offer from F-16 producer Lockheed Martin to add its prized fourth-generation fighter to the list of Made in India products.
Now discussions seem to be steaming forward between one of the U.S.’s top defense producers and the Government of India, with a statement to The Hindu from the office of Lockheed Martin’s India head Phil Shaw noting that they were “in discussions with the U.S. Government, the Government of India, and our Indian industry partners about potential new production F-16 aircraft to address India’s fighter recapitalisation requirements.”
While the company added that details about the aircraft and industrial offer would be determined in conjunction with the two governments in question, Lockheed Martin, and Indian industry, some within policy circles have not ruled out the possibility that the package could include “unprecedented” technology sharing or other favourable terms to woo the government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Lockheed Martin’s initial expression of interest in moving its entire production line for the F-16 to India, made by Mr. Shaw at the Singapore Airshow 2016, got surprisingly meagre play in the media. The reason, perhaps, was a lack of clarity on what might in some ways be a quantum jump in bilateral defence cooperation, but in other respects may entail certain strategic-economic risks that would have to be carefully understood.
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(Featured photo courtesy of defence.pk)