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Lockheed Martin which is vying for a major contract with the Indian Air Force (IAF) to supply 40-80 new medium transport aircraft (MTA) to replace its ageing fleet of Soviet-era An-32s has identified two potential Indian partners Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Limited (TLMAL) and state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for local manufacturing of its C-130J Super Hercules aircraft.

TLMAL is a joint venture between Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Lockheed Martin. The company has a successful track record, serving as the single global source of C-130J empennage assemblies for all new Super Hercules aircraft manufactured in Marietta, Georgia, USA. This existing partnership positions TLMAL as a strong contender for the local production of C-130Js in India.

HAL, India’s state-owned aerospace and defence company, boasts extensive experience in aircraft manufacturing. Partnering with HAL would offer Lockheed Martin access to HAL’s established infrastructure and expertise.

Lockheed Martin faces competition from European giants Airbus and Embraer. Airbus has proposed its A400M Atlas, while Embraer offers its C-390 Millennium. Notably, both the A400M and C-390M offer larger cargo capacities compared to the C-130J.

While the C-130J might have a smaller cargo capacity, the IAF already operates a fleet of 12 C-130Js. This familiarity with the platform could be a significant factor for the IAF when considering its options. Lockheed Martin is likely hoping that this operational experience will influence the IAF’s decision.

The IAF’s decision on the MTA program is yet to be announced. The choice will depend on carefully evaluating factors including aircraft capabilities, acquisition costs, and the level of technology transfer and industrial partnership offered by each contender. Both TLMAL and HAL have the potential to become valuable partners for Lockheed Martin, potentially making the C-130J an attractive proposition for the Indian government’s “Make in India” initiative.

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