American military manufacturer Lockheed Martin could soon be producing F-16 fighters in an assembly line based in India, taking advantage of the new liberalised FDI conditions announced by the government on Monday.
Rafael deal future uncertain
Negotiations with the French government for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters haven’t succeeded yet in securing a competitive price.
Lockheed Martin, on the other hand, is keen to close down its F16 production facility in the U.S. Talks are on to invite the company to shift its F16 production line to India.
This will serve the twin purposes: it will be a success story of Make In India initiative plus it will address the Indian defence establishment’s requirement of a new fighter fleet.
Other defence firms interested in India
Several foreign defence firms have been expressing their willingness to set up assembly lines in India. Among them are the Eurofighter consortium ad Sweden’s Gripen. Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing from the U.S. in April held discussions in New Delhi about the possibility of producing their jets in India. While Lockheed has proposed F-16, Boeing has offered to make F/A-18s in India.
Criticism of Lockheed Martin aircrafts
1. Lockheed Martin fighter aircraft is going out of production. The company is believed to have orders only for a few more months, with the US military, F-16’s biggest customer, moving to more advanced fighters and foreign orders drying up.
2. For many in the air force it would be a surprising, and disappointing move, given that F-16s are a critical part of Pakistan air force’s fighter arm. Besides, it would be ensuring that F-16, a 40-year-old design and fourth generation fighter, would remain in the IAF for another 30-40 years.
3. Former Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday cautioned: “Allowing 100% FDI in the defence sector means India's defence sector is thrown mostly into the hands of Nato-American defence manufacturers.”
4. He went on to warn that if Nato-American defence manufacturers came into India then it would “affect India’s independent foreign policy too. It will also threaten the national security.” Further, it would have an adverse impact on the ongoing indigenous defence research activities.