Defence News India: In a bid to consolidate its offer to supply more than 100 fighter jets to Indian Air Force, US defence and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Friday signed an MoU with state owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to explore industrial opportunities in the F-21 programme. Lockheed Martin said it is strengthening and growing its partnerships with the Indian industry to support the company’s F-21 proposal for the Indian Air Force.
The MoU between Lockheed Martin and BEL was inked at Defence Expo 2020 held in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
“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 Stragety and Business Development, 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,” added the top Lockheed executive who has previously worked with Boeing India, Raytheon, General Atomics and Reliance Industries.
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Bengaluru based Bharat Electronics Limited manufactures advanced electronic equipment for Indian armed forces.
Public sector defence manufacturer BEL works in the field of military communication, radar systems, missile systems, naval systems, C4I systems, electronic warfare systems, avionics, anti-submarine warfare systems, tank electronics, electro optics, gun and weapon system upgrades, shelters, unmanned systems, homeland security, cyber security, artificial intelligence based systems and professional electronic components.
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“We are happy to collaborate with Lockheed Martin which is a global major in the aerospace sector,” said Anandi Ramalingam, Director Marketing of BEL.
We are eagerly looking forward to cash in on this co-operation to address domestic and international market needs in this sector,” she added.
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Lockheed Martin’s F-21
After some modifications and improvements, Lockheed Martin renamed its legacy fighter jet F-16IN Super Viper as F-21 to pitch for the IAF as the company faced criticism by some commentators who blamed it for trying to push an obsolete fighter.
“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,” the company said in a statement.
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What is India’s MMRCA deal?
After scrapping the initial tender to procure 126 medium sized fighter jets, Indian government issued a fresh tender in April 2019 to procure more than 100 fighter jets.
Lockheed Martin is competing with five other aircraft manufacturers for India’s MMRCA programme to supply more than 100 medium class fighter jets. In addition to the two US companies – Lockheed Martin and Boeing Defense, four other global defence and aerospace giants have pitched their combat jets for this mega deal.
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While Swedish defence major Saab has pitched its single engine Gripen fighter, France’s Dassault Aviation has pitched its twin engine Rafale fighter jet. The french company has already won a contract to supply 36 Rafale fighter jets in a government to government deal between Indian and French governments.
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Another European contender, a consortium of BAE Systems, Alenia Aermacchi, Eurofighter GmbH, Airbus Group, has offered Eurofighter Typhoon. Russia has offered its modified Mig 29, now renamed as Mig 35 fighter to Indian Air Force.
This deal has emerged as one of the most sought after deals for supply of fighter planes as India is expected to procure more than 110 fighter jets at an estimated cost of over $18 billion.
Make in India in Defence
In recent time, the US defence and aerospace major has renewed its efforts to sell F-16 fighter jets (renamed as F-21) after its production was closed down in the USA.
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“The F-21 will also provide 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,” said the company.