India may soon become the manufacturing and export hub of custom-built F-16 fighter jets which will give the country access to an estimated US$ 165 billion fighter aircraft market.
News agency PTI reports that Global aerospace giant Lockheed Martin announced its proposal to manufacture custom-built F-16 fighter jets in India. Vivek Lall, Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Lockheed Martin, said that the F-16 Block 70 which is being proposed to India will be the most technologically advanced and capable F-16 fighter jet ever produced.
Lall said, “F-16 exports could begin within five years of establishing production in India. Depending on when India makes its selection, more than 200 F-16s could be exported from India.”
The F16s are here to stay for a very long time and the worldwide demand for sustainment totals an estimated USD 165 billion over the next 30 years. In fact, several hundred F-16s are said to remain operational through 2050 and beyond as structural and avionics modifications continually increase the capability and lethality of the F-16.
The report added that there are about 3,000 operational F-16s flying today with 25 leading air forces and that the demand for new production of F-16s remains strong. Lall added, “Many air forces are actively engaging with Lockheed Martin about the prospect of procuring new F-16s. We see F-16 production opportunities totaling more than 400 aircraft, including aircraft for the Indian Air Force.”
The F-16 Block 70 will feature:
- Proven Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar
- A modernised cockpit
- Advanced weapons
- Longer range with conformal fuel tanks
- Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS)
- An advanced engine with an extended service life
Recently, Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures (TLMAL), a joint venture between Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) and Lockheed Martin, inaugurated India’s first-of-its-kind metal-to-metal bonding facility at Adibatla in Hyderabad.
“The Lockheed Martin-Tata F-16 partnership is without equal. Only Lockheed Martin’s global experience and success establishing defence ecosystems in six countries, combined with the strength and integrity of Tata, can deliver the advanced defence capabilities and industrial benefits to truly propel India’s military and defence industrial base into the future,” Lall said.