Indian-American Vivek Lall who joined Lockheed Martin as vice- president of strategy and business development recently in his interview with Press Trust of India (PTI) made contrary statements on Lockheed Martin’s proposal for sale of F-16 while bringing in a push for sale of F-35 to India leading to high level of confusion.

Lall said Lockheed is keen on offering Customised F-35 to India, while his later part of Interview he was clearly talking about F-16 proposal to manufacture 114 with Tata Group in India to meet Indian Air Force’s Single Engine Fighter (SEF) Tender.

Lockheed Martin has offered to manufacture F-16 Block-70 aka F-16V configuration which is said to be the most technologically updated F-16, which comes with a new radar system, stealth detection capability, and Avionics upgrades to keep the fighter modern and up to date for next 20 years.

F-16V grew out of requirements of various F-16 operators who wanted to modernise their older F-16 fleet with newer modern technologies while not breaking the bank. F-16V offered to India lacks any deeper level of customisation options since it largely sticks to Standard Company package developed by Lockheed Martin with its partners to generate additional modernisation business from its current F-16 operators.

Previous Lockheed Martin’s F-16IN Proposal for now scrapped MMRCA Tender allowed India a greater level of local Customisation along with the addition of 3rd party sub-systems which F-16V offer clearly lacks. IAF too has not asked for any level of customisation to avoid delays in deliveries which means he was talking about an F-35 offer but post an F-16 deal with India.

Lockheed Martin since early days of MMRCA Tender as been using F-16 as a bait for India to move towards procurement of F-35 in future. Lack of Indo-Russian final contract for development of 5th Generation FGFA based on Su-57 suggests that offer of customised F-35 could hold true since IAF will ask for a higher level of customisation for its front-line fighter aircraft based on a 5th generation platform even though IAF has not shown any active interest in procurement of F-35s.

With Bare F-35 price likely to see sharp fall post-2020 to below $80 Million a unit for USAF. Lockheed Martin might have offered Customised F-35 offer in lieu of F-16 orders or is trying to signal to Government of India that it is ready to work with India to develop a new F-35 based on requirements of India in near future once local production of F-16s comes to a halt.



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