Lockheed offers to build F-16 jets in India
Lockheed Martin Corp. has offered to build its flagship F-16 fighter jet in India, as the South Asian nation scrambles to modernize its aging defence fleet while trying to establish the country as a manufacturing base.
Lockheed chairman, president and chief executive officer Marillyn Hewson made the offer to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September, Phil Shaw, CEO of Lockheed's Indian unit, said in an interview on Thursday at the Singapore Airshow. The US and Indian governments are negotiating the deal, he said.
Modi needs to quickly replace many of the air force's 650 planes - a third of which are more than 40 years old - and has vowed to turn India from the world's biggest weapons importer into a global hub for defence manufacturing. The country sold about $150 million of arms in the last fiscal year, a fraction of the $ 64 billion in worldwide defence trade and its own arms imports of $5.6 billion.
"The US-Indian relationship that has been developing could benefit Lockheed," Jon Grevatt, Asia-Pacific defenceindustry analyst for IHS Jane's, said by phone from Singapore. But, he added, "I don't see it happening immediately. This is still very early stages."
After coming to power in May 2014 with the country's biggest election mandate in three decades, Modi unveiled his '' Make in India'' campaign to boost manufacturing to 25% of gross domestic product by 2022 from 18% now. The cornerstone of the policy is attracting companies to set up factories in India for manufacturing.
India picked Paris-based Dassault Aviation SA in 2012 to build 126 warplanes at an estimated cost of about $11 billion - at the time the world's biggest fighter- jet deal, and one in which Lockheed lost out. As talks stalled over price and quality guarantees, Modi flew to France last April and sought to directly buy 36 fighter jets from the French government in a bid to speed things up.