London : Tata Group and American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin on Monday signed an “unprecedented” deal to produce, operate and export the combat-proven F-16 fighters in India, boosting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ plan ahead of his first summit with US President Donald Trump.
Under the deal, Lockheed will shift its Fort Worth, Texas plant to India without directly affecting American jobs, a campaign pledge of Trump who has vowed to put “America First”.
The deal announced during the Paris Airshow between Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) and Lockheed Martin is ideally suited to meet Indian Air Force’s single-engine fighter needs.
According to defence experts, the Indian Air Force needs around 200 medium weight category aircraft and currently does not operate F-16s. The deal is going to be among the largest projects under the Make in India initiative.
In August last year, Lockheed had offered to move its lone production line the F 16-Block 70 from Texas to India, the world’s top defence importer. It, however, had made clear the proposal was “conditional” to Indian Air Force choosing the fighters for its fleet. In February this year, Lockheed had said this unique opportunity strengthens the strategic ties between the US and India.