To facilitate production partnerships, the three-day “Suppliers Conference” inaugurated in New Delhi by Lockheed Martin and TASL, brings together the F-16’s current “Tier-1 vendors” (which build large F-16 systems) with potential Indian industry partners. In a process that a senior Lockheed Martin executive likens to “speed dating”, the conference will host 540 “business-to-business” meetings for these vendors to select promising Indian partner companies.
Scouting for Indian partners are more than 20 F-16 vendors, including the world’s foremost aerospace and defence firms: BAE Systems, Cobham, Collins Aerospace, Curtiss-Wright, Eaton, Elbit Systems, Elta, GE Aviation, Honeywell, L3Harris, Leonardo, Martin Baker, Meggitt, Moog, Northrop Grumman, Parker Hannifin, Pratt & Whitney, Rada, Rafael, Raytheon and Safran Electrical & Power.
Hoping to tie up with them are about 70 Indian suppliers. These include large public firms like Bharat Earth Movers Ltd, medium sized, high technology firms like Data Patterns and small electronics companies like Verdant.
Lall told Business Standard that, over the preceding year, a dedicated team of Lockheed Martin production experts has been visiting the facilities of potential Indian partner firms, carrying out on-site assessments of their capabilities. This followed two earlier supplier conferences held in Bengaluru.
Lockheed Martin is offering to support all 2,500 F-16s in operational service worldwide from its Indian production line. In addition, new F-16 orders from any country will be built on the Indian production line. The US company believes this offer of industrial partnership, and its benefit to India’s aerospace industry, makes the F-21 a front-runner in the IAF procurement.
“Our partnership with Indian industry… will put India at the epicentre of world’s largest defence ecosystem and deliver unmatched sustainment and export opportunities”, said Vivek Lall of Lockheed Martin.
Lockheed Martin’s F-21 is competing for the IAF contract with Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet; the Russian MiG-35 and Sukhoi-35; Saab’s Gripen E; Eurofighter GmbH’s Typhoon and Dassault’s Rafale.
Lockheed Martin is already building sophisticated aerospace structures in Hyderabad, in partnership with TASL, including include entire cabin structures for Sikorsky helicopters. Signalling its commitment to the TASL partnership, Lockheed Martin has announced that all F-16 wings will be built in Hyderabad henceforth, even if the IAF does not select the F-21.