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Tata-Lockheed Martin sign deal to manufacture advanced F-16s in India

20 Jun 2017 | By Abheet Sethi

Tata Advanced Systems Ltd and US aerospace major Lockheed Martin Corp. have signed a deal to manufacture the iconic F-16 fighter jets in India.

The deal comes ahead of Indian PM Narendra Modi's US visit on June 26.

The Indian Air Force requires up to 200 single-engine warplanes to augment depleting fighter plane strength, for which the F-16 is competing against Saab's Gripen.

In context: Tata-Lockheed sign deal to manufacture F-16s in India

13 Jun 2017IAF to conduct limited trials for F-16/Gripen warplanes

On June 13, it was reported that the Indian Air Force will conduct limited trials of the US-built Lockheed Martin F-16 and Swedish Saab Gripen fighter jets.

The IAF then plans to select the foreign company which will build 120 jets locally in a deal estimated to be worth $20 billion (Rs 1.3 lakh crore).

The IAF needs new-aircraft to augment depleting fighter strength.

F-16s are flown by 26 countries, including Pakistan

Since its introduction in the 1970s, over 4,500 F-16s have been manufactured in production lines in the US, Turkey and South Korea. Of these, an estimated 3,200 warplanes are still operational under 26 countries, including Pakistan.
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20 Jun 2017Tata-Lockheed Martin sign deal to manufacture advanced F-16s in India

BenefitsIndia could export F-16s but that's if IAF selects it

It's important to note that the Tata-Lockheed deal hasn't officially been approved by the Indian and US government.

If the IAF selects the F-16 over the Gripen, then India will have a chance to export the warplane and spares to other countries.

It remains unclear how the deal would impact the existing F-16 inventories of other countries, including Pakistan.

Why the timing of the Tata-Lockheed deal matters

Modi will be visiting the US on June 26 to discuss, among other things, measures to boost Indo-US defense cooperation with President Donald Trump. In the past, India has announced defense contracts with the US to coincide with international visits.

Spoilsport Trump?Make in India vs America First

The Lockheed-Tata deal envisages the shifting of the F-16 factory from Fort Worth, Texas to India.

It remains unclear on how the idea to produce the F-16s under Modi's 'Make in India' policy will deal with Trump's own 'America First' and 'Buy American, Make American' push, preventing jobs to move out from the US.

This could hamper the deal's future chances.

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DetailsF-16 production to create thousands of jobs for India

"F-16 production in India supports thousands of Lockheed Martin and F-16 supplier jobs in the US, creates new manufacturing jobs in India" a joint statement by Lockheed and Tata stated.

The deal would provide India "the opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft, the newest and most advanced version of the world's most successful, combat-proven multi-role fighter."