Lockheed Martin has redesignated the F-16V Block 70 as the F-21 in its offering for India's fighter requirement.
“The F-21 addresses the Indian air force’s unique requirements, and integrates India into the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem with the world’s pre-eminent defence company,” says Lockheed.
“Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems would produce the F-21 in India, for India.”
Speaking at the Aero India show, a company official said the redesignation reflects not just the aircraft, but the entire industrial package the type offers.
The aircraft itself has a number of unique attributes compared with other F-16s. Previous versions have a receptor on the upper fuselage to receive boom-delivered fuel. While retaining this, the F-21 also features an extendable hose-and-drogue refuelling probe on its right-hand side.
In addition, the jet is equipped with a large area display in the cockpit, just below the head-up display.
New Delhi has a requirement for 110 fighters. As well as the F-21, the contest has attracted interest from Boeing bidding the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Dassault offering the Rafale, Eurofighter with the Typhoon and Saab with the Gripen E – as well as the Russian-designed RAC MiG-35 and Sukhoi Su-35.
The acquisition is referred to unofficially as "MMRCA 2.0", a reference to New Delhi’s failed effort to obtained 126 advanced fighters under its Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft competition. This was won by Rafale, but the deal was cancelled in August 2015.
But that name is not the only thing to have appeared before: the F-21 designation is not new either. The Kfir – an Israeli development of the Dassault Mirage III with a GE Aviation J79 engine – was operated in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the US Navy and Marine Corps as an aggressor aircraft, when it was designated the F-21.