Lockheed Martin will shift production of wings for the F-16 fighter to India’s Tata Advanced Systems, as it ups the ante in its effort win a key fighter competition.
The US firm and Tata have signed an agreement for the potential work, says Lockheed.
“Producing F-16 wings in India will strengthen Lockheed Martin’s strategic partnership with Tata and support ‘Make in India,’” says the company, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative to build indigenous production capabilities.
It will take about two years for Tata to become a certified Lockheed supplier for the wings. In late 2020 or early 2021 it will be able to submit bids for wing manufacturing. The current producer of F-16 wings is IAI.
“The planned F-16 wing production move to India is not contingent on the Government of India selecting the F-16 for the Indian Air Force,” says Lockheed.
The decision to give F-16 wing work to Tata follows an agreement between the two companies at the Paris air show in 2017, whereby Lockheed committed to manufacturing F-16s in India should it win the air force’s single-engined fighter competition.
In April, New Delhi issued a request for information (RFI) for 110 fighters. The 73-page document requested information from six companies to supply 110 single- and twin-seat fighters over a maximum of 12 years.
Contestants for the long-running requirement are the F-16 Block 70, Boeing F/A-18 E/F Block III, Dassault Rafale F3R, Eurofighter Typhoon, RAC MiG-35, and Saab Gripen III. A decade ago, these aircraft competed for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) requirement, which ultimately went to the Rafale.
Negotiations, however, ran aground. Dassault apparently preferred to work with Reliance Industries to build the aircraft locally, instead of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics. In addition, there were issues with technology transfer.
Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that there are 30 firm orders for F-16Vs, of which 16 will go to Bahrain and 14 to Slovakia. These aircraft will be produced at Lockheed’s new Greenville, South Carolina production line.
At the Singapore air show in February, Lockheed’s head of aeronautics Orlando Carvalho said there was potential for sales for over 400 new-build F-16s in the coming years given fighter competitions in India, Indonesia, and Colombia. Poland, which already operates F-16s, may also obtain additional aircraft.
Tata Advanced Systems has strong relations with the international aerospace industry. Work packages include fuselages for the AH-64 Apache, the fuselage for the Sikorsky S-92 helicopter, the empennage of the C-130J, and 3,000 detailed parts for Ruag’s Dornier 228NG.