June 20, 2006 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Lockheed Martin, in the race to sell 126 F-16 jets to the Indian Air Force, is in talks with companies like HAL and the Tata group for the outsourcing of aircraft components.
If Lockheed bags the reported $9 billion deal, a "majority" of the jets will be built by state-owned HAL following the transfer of technology, said Lockheed's Director of Communications Joseph Stout.
As part of efforts to establish a presence in India, Lockheed was not only eyeing the prospect of outsourcing components for the F-16 fighter jets to Indian firms but also for other aircraft, including the hugely successful C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.
"Though we have no agreements in place, it is important for Lockheed Martin to establish a presence in India," he said.
Lockheed -- which is competing for the IAF deal with the F-18 of Boeing, the Gripen of Swedish firm Saab, the Mig-29 from Russia, the Rafale of France's Dassault -- is confident of bagging the contract, Stout said.
"We haven't lost a contract to the F-18 in the last 10 years and we have never lost to the Russians." he said.
He also said that Boeings twin-engine F-18 is essentially a Navy aircraft suited for operating from aircraft carriers. "Twin-engine planes add to costs towards spare parts and maintenance. Though F-16 has a single engine, its safety statistics are the same as F-18s." Stout claimed.
Lockheed has formed a special team at its facility in Fort Worth, Texas, to pitch the F-16 to India and to work on offset-related issues. Under Indian regulations, foreign firms have to make offset commitments for 30 per cent of any defence deals worth 3 billion Rupees (+/-66 million USD) or more.
If Lockheed bags the deal to supply 126 jets to the Indian Air Force, the request for proposals for which are likely to be issued soon, a "majority" of the jets will be built by state-owned HAL following the transfer of technology, Stout said.
Outside the United States, the F-16 has been built in four other countries: Belgium
, the Netherlands
and South Korea
Lockheed is also hopeful that all issues related to the transfer of sensitive technologies can be worked out between India and the US in view of their growing strategic relationship, he added.
Besides the F-16, Lockheed has also offered the C-130 transport aircraft to the IAF and has made a joint bid with Sikorsky for a contract to supply some 25 helicopters to the Indian Navy.