Thursday, 4 August 2016

F-16 : #MakeInIndia, for India and the world

With nasty neighbours and souring relations with Pakistan and China, India is in dire need for all-weather multirole fighter planes. India already has given a contract for LCA Tejas to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. In 2007, India began an official tender for procuring 126 multirole fighter combat jets from France's Dassault at the tender cost of $11 billion. At that time, it was the largest defence deal. The deal unraveled after the global financial crises. In 2014, PM Narendra Modi made a modest deal to acquire 36 Rafale fighter jets in a fly-away condition. India is short of fighter jets when the Arab revolution has turned into a full fledged civil war. Major defence companies across the world are wooing India. Saab, Lockheed Martin, Boeing took part in #MakeInIndia expo which was held in Mumbai.

Pic - Coup plotters using F-16 to kill pro government supporters in Istanbul, Turkey


Make In India is not merely a campaign but an amalgamation of all ongoing projects and forward thinking for India's defence security systems. Lethargic PSUs have seen a turnaround and are creating world class products. Narendra Modi's warm relations with US and 100% FDI in defence have paved a greater deal for India. Lockheed Martin has offered to manufacture more than 100 F-16 in India on the condition that Indian Air Force agrees to buy some of it. F-16 would not just be made for India but will be sold across Europe and Asia.

As per some defence sources, India is not keen for procuring fourth generation F-16. We are eyeing for fifth generation F-35 jets. But India is unlikely to get the deal especially under the 'Make In India' campaign. No country would want to assemble its newest innovation in a foreign country. Defence companies are mostly owned by the government of origin and a large chuck of research grants and defence budget is funded by the government for efficient running of a company. TheIndianCapitalist.com is of an opinion that F-35 is not the bang for buck for Indian Air Force. Surely, it has state of the art accuracy and meets modern standards. F-35 is heavier than most fighter jets in the market. The payload matches to LCA Tejas and various defence analyst suspect its multirole capabilities. Pentagon has confirmed that F-35 has lost against F-16 as it lacked a special coat of stealth paint.

The deal for F-16 would not just be an ordinary buy but a diplomatic victory over Pakistan. The US government had offered Pakistan 8 F-16s last year but it denied any subsidies. The double-play of Pakistan is highly suspected by Pentagon. Like any other business deal, US has offered to sale F-16 at market rate. On the other hand, Lockheed Martin has offered to manufacture more than 100 F-16 in India facility. Locally produced F-16 would mean discounted deal for India and would not harm our fiscal deficit.

US based Lockheed Martin has submitted a proposal to Ministry of Defence for locally manufacturing of F-16 Block 70 under the #MakeInIndia scheme. Sales division of Lockheed Martin are ambitiously calling it 'a unmatched and unprecedented deal'. The company termed India as '' new epicentre of the world's most extensive industrial defence network".

TheIndianCapitalist.com's take

Locally manufactured F-16 would be the biggest success of Make In India. F-16 is highly appreciated by defence analysts across the globe. F-16 is currently operational in UK, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Pakistan etc. and the new buy is from Romania. Lockheed Martin would obviously employ from the best universities in India ie. the IITs and NITs. Local manufacturing of world class F-16 would add to highly skilled labour which can be later employed by Indian defence companies to make innovative breakthrough in defence world. We need a ISRO in defence. To be defence superpower, we need to manufacture world class defence equipments at an attractive price so that countries smaller than Romania could buy our products to protect themselves. We think Ministry of Defence may accept Lockheed Martin's offer and state governments may soon start talks with the company. Maharashtra's MIHAN and newly launched Ottappalam Defence park may soon take off with major defence companies planning to #MakeInIndia.

- Chaitanya Kulkarni ( twitter.com/chai2kul )

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