Aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin has inked a letter of intent to produce the F-16 Block 70 fighter jet in India.
The announcement, made at the Paris Air Show, links the Maryland-based company with Tata Advanced Systems Limited, an Indian company that would assist with the production of the fighter in India. The deal is subject to approval by both the U.S. and Indian governments.
The F-16 Block 70 fighter is part of a competition the Indian Air Force is holding for a single-engine fighter. The F-16 is in the competition with the Saab Gripen fighter.
Lockheed Martin’s Greenville Operations facility was recently chosen to be the new location for the company’s F-16 production line, but company officials said this recent deal would have no impact on moving the production to Greenville operations.
“This does not affect our plans to transition F-16 production to Greenville to support emerging F-16 production requirements,” said John Losinger, head of communications for Lockheed Martin’s Integrated Fighter Group.
The move could add between 200-250 new jobs in Greenville. Greenville Operations communication lead Leslie Farmer said in an earlier story, it will take nearly two years to fully transition the production line to Greenville and there was no timeline on when hiring for new positions would take place.
The company will move F-16 production to Greenville and expand its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter assembly line in Fort Worth, according to Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president for Lockheed Martin’s Aeronautics division.
A potential deal with India would be part of the “Make in India” initiative which aims to bolster the country’s manufacturing infrastructure and increase jobs in the manufacturing industry.
“This opportunity represents a unique way to satisfy both the Indian Air Force’s need and the Make in India initiative,” Losinger said.
Lockheed Martin has done co-production deals on the F-16 where the final assembly and check-out would be produced in Fort Worth and other components would be sourced elsewhere. Losinger said the initial aircraft would be built in Greenville, but the details regarding production and a potential agreement with India would have to be ironed out.
“We are just kind of in a wait and see mode,” Losinger said.
Tata Advanced Systems has worked with Lockheed Martin on manufacturing airframe components on the C-130J airlifter and the S-92 helicopter in India.
“Tata has proven though both of those programs that they have the capacity to do this and they would be a strong partner with us,” Losinger said.
He said there has been no timeframe lined out as to when the Indian Air Force will make its decision on a new single-engine fighter.