DefExpo 2020: Lockheed Martin, BEL to Explore Opportunities in F-21 Fighter Programme

Lockheed Martin signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian state-owned company Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to explore industrial opportunities in the F-21 fighter aircraft programme

The MoU was signed, on Feb. 7, at the ongoing DefExpo 2020 exposition being held in Lucknow, India.

Lockheed Martin is strengthening and growing its partnerships with the Indian industry to support the company’s F-21 proposal for the Indian Air Force, said to a Lockheed Martin statement.

The F-21 multi-role fighter jet concept, unveiled at the Aero India 2019 exhibition, is essentially a re-branded F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jet reportedly based on the latest variant, the F-16 Block 70. If selected by the Air Force, the company will build the plane in collaboration with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. (TASL).

“We are excited to begin exploring F-21 opportunities with BEL, one of India’s leading aerospace and defence companies,” said Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. “An F-21 partnership with India integrates Indian industry, including BEL, into the world’s largest and most successful fighter aircraft ecosystem and demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s commitment to India.”

“We are happy to collaborate with Lockheed Martin which is a global major in the aerospace sector. We are eagerly looking forward to cash in on this co-operation to address domestic and international market needs in this sector”, said Anandi Ramalingam, Director (Marketing) at BEL.

Excerpts from Lockheed Martin statement:

The advanced, single-engine F-21 is the ideal solution to meet the Indian Air Force’s capability needs and deliver unparalleled industrial opportunities. The F-21 delivers an advanced, single-engine multi-role fighter at the most optimal Life Cycle Cost for the Indian Air Force, with the longest service life of any competitor – 12,000 flight hours. In concert with India’s Rafale and Tejas, the F-21 will fill a critical operational role for the Indian Air Force.

The F-21 also provides unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes, including Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and suppliers throughout India, to establish new business relationships with Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders in the US and around the globe.

India is in the process of acquiring 100+ fighter jets for its Air Force to replace the ageing fleet of Soviet-era fighter jets. Lockheed Martin is competing with Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet (USA), Saab’s Gripen (Sweden), Dassault Aviation’s Rafale (France), the Eurofighter Typhoon (Europe) and Mikoyan MiG-35 (Russia) for the order.

Lockheed Martin has also offered to move its F-16 production plant at Fort Worth, Texas, to India, if it wins the order in a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make-in-India plan to build a domestic military-industrial base and create jobs.

The company had previously offered its F-16 fighter jet for the IAF’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition and lost out to Dassault Rafale. The tender, which was for 126 jets, was eventually cancelled and India ordered 36 Rafales from France in a Government-to-Government (G2G) deal. The deal was worth €7.8 billion with an option for 18 more jets at the same inflation-adjusted price.

The first Rafale was delivered to Indian Air Force in October 2019.

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