In what could be a huge boost for Telangana's dreams to soar in the aerospace space, US-based aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and Tata Group's defence equipment manufacturing firm, Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), have inked an agreement to jointly manufacture the latest version of the F-16 fighter jet, the F-16 Block 70, in India.
The development as well as manufacturing of this fighter plane is likely to take place on the outskirts of Hyderabad, where the two companies have set up their joint venture unit at the aerospace and precision engineering park at Adibatla SEZ.
According to a joint release issued by the two companies on Monday during the ongoing Paris Air Show 2017, where the MoU was inked, the partnership between the two aerospace players provides India the opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft.
Commenting on the partnership, Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said in a statement, "This agreement builds on the already established joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Tata and underscores the relationship and commitment between the two companies."
"Lockheed Martin is honoured to partner with Indian defense and aerospace leader TASL on the F-16 program. Our partnership significantly strengthens the F-16 `Make in India' offer, creates and maintains numerous new job opportunities in India and the US and brings the world's most combat-proven multi-role fighter aircraft to India," said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
With this partnership, the US based aerospace player and the Tata Group company have indicated that they are also in fray for the multi-billion dollar single-engine fighter jets order for the Indian Air Force that the Indian government is expected to float a tender for in the coming days.
Indian government officials have earlier said that the government is open to buying fighter jets from global players provided they are manufactured in India along with a local partner.
On being asked about Lockheed Martin's plan to manufacture in India, the company replied in a mail, "It would be inappropriate for us to speculate on such details at this time. The Government of India is still determining its requirements and discussions are ongoing between the government of India and the US government. We will share additional information, as appropriate, when it becomes available."
With more than 4,500 F-16s already manufactured and approximately 3,200 operational in 26 countries, the aircraft is touted to be one of the most successful, combat-proven multirole fighter. The F-16 Block 70 is the newest and most technologically advanced version of F-16.
Earlier this month, TASL had announced that it has delivered the first crown and tailcone assembly for the Indian configuration of the CH-47F Chinook helicopter that has been manufactured at its unit in the Adibatla aerospace and precision engineering park.
The parts will be delivered to the US aerospace giant Boeing for final assembly of the 15 helicopters on delivery to the Indian Air Force, which is set to begin in 2019.