A significant jump in life after a service life extension of the F-16 Block 70 platform. Total Indian autonomy on who can buy made-in-India F-16s or be part of the resulting supply chain that will be governed entirely by India. A choice of avionics and kit currently under test on the F-35 family of fifth generation fighters. These are the three broad pitch points Lockheed-Martin puts forth as it looks to win India’s next big fighter contest — the Make In India Fighter (MIIF, unofficially). Lockheed-Martin, which had one of the most visible campaigns for India’s erstwhile M-MRCA contest, has clearly re-energised itself for what is, by all accounts, a much more significant piece of Indian pie this time, a contest reported first here on Livefist. As the world’s largest defence firm primes itself for a face-off against what could be a much smaller line-up than the six-horse M-MRCA, Livefist puts some questions to Abhay Paranjape, National Executive for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Business Development in India:
1. Outline the major contours of L-M’s Make in India (MII) F-16 Block 70 offer.
Lockheed Martin is offering India the exclusive opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft. Exclusive F-16 production in India would make India home to the world’s only F-16 production facility, a leading exporter of advanced fighter aircraft, and offer Indian industry the opportunity to become an integral part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft supply chain.
2. How does the current programme differ qualitatively from the M-MRCA programme, which also envisaged a major MII component?
Leveraging technologies from our 5th Generation fleet of aircraft, the F-16 Block 70 aircraft is the most technologically advanced F-16 ever offered. These advances include the APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, a new high resolution center pedestal display, a new mission computer significantly enhancing processing and storage capacity, and a new 1 gigabit Ethernet databus. Further leveraging recent structural life extension efforts performed for the U.S. Air Force, the F-16 Block 70 will deliver a 50 percent or more increase in additional service life to 12,000 hours or beyond – a significant increase over competing aircraft. From an industrial program perspective, Lockheed Martin’s offer to move all future F-16 production to India is unprecedented, as it would place Indian industry at the center of the world’s most extensive fighter aircraft supply base. None of our competitors can offer that.
3. How does L-M address concerns that the F-16, albeit upgraded, is a legacy fighter at the end of its active life?
The F-16 is the most combat proven aircraft in history and the F-16 Block 70 is the most technologically advanced F-16 ever offered. The updated avionics suite leverages technologies developed as a part of Lockheed Martin’s efforts on our fleet of 5th Generation fighter aircraft. Major elements of these advanced avionics are included in major upgrades for multiple F-16 customers around the world and already slated for integration on more than 300 aircraft that will be flown for decades. These elements will also form the basis for upgrades and aircraft life extension for U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft as they seek to operate their fleet for 30-plus years into the future. Global demand for new production F-16 aircraft also remains strong in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America.
4. If the Indian government presses a single-engine stipulation, the F-16 could square off against the Gripen NG. What’s your pitch on how the F-16 Block 70 over the Gripen NG?
Lockheed Martin is the recognized leader in the design, development and manufacture of the world’s most technologically advanced fighter aircraft. The F-16 Block 70 aircraft leverages avionics technologies from our 5th Generation fighter aircraft to deliver an aircraft with unrivaled speed, agility, range, and payload. We offer proven, unmatched experience developing international fighter production capacity having previously established F-16 production lines in four countries and F-35 production lines in two countries. Our offer to establish exclusive F-16 production in India to meet worldwide demand for new F-16 aircraft is without precedent and the opportunity for Indian companies to play a major role in the industrial base that supplies necessary parts for a global fleet of more than 3,200 aircraft is unmatched.
5. Pakistan operates F-16s and looks to operate more. Would the future of Pakistan’s fleet be in Indian hands in the event of a successful MII F-16 programme?
As has always been the case, future F-16 production decisions would be subject to government-to-government discussions.
6. Sweden’s Saab has sweetened its Gripen pitch to India by offering Gallium-Nitride (GaN) radar technology as a spin-off. How does Lockheed-Martin propose to beef up its offering?
Lockheed Martin’s F-16 offer to India—the exclusive opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft—is without precedent. In addition to proposing the most technologically advanced F-16 ever offered to the Indian Air Force, exclusive F-16 production in India extends this Make in India opportunity beyond mere “assemble in India” or “manufacture in India,” to a long-term industrial opportunity for India. Our experience developing fighter production capacity around the world is unmatched. Lockheed Martin has previously established F-16 production lines in four countries and F-35 production lines in two countries. Our F-16 offer also includes the unmatched opportunity for Indian companies to play a major role in the industrial base that supplies parts for a global fleet of more than 3,200 aircraft. The long-term effect of establishing the sole F-16 production line in India will be to position Indian industry as a major contributor in the production of components and sub-components necessary to support the growing worldwide F-16 fleet.