US defence giant Lockheed Martin believes its F-21 fighter, offered exclusively for the Indian Air Force, would be a game-changer along with the indigenous Tejas and Rafale fighters. Lockheed Martin has offered the F-21 fighter, unveiled at Aero India in 2019, in consideration for an Indian Air Force contract for 114 aircraft, which is estimated to be valued at $15 billion.
"We believe the F-21 is the best solution to meet the Indian Air Force's capability needs, provide Make-in-India industrial opportunities, and accelerate India-US cooperation on advanced technologies," Lockheed Martin executive Vivek Lall told PTI in an interview on Wednesday. The F-21 is derived from the prolific F-16 fighter.
Lall is vice president (strategy and business development) at Lockheed Martin.
"No other company has the experience in next-generation technologies, including but not limited to fighter aircraft, Lockheed Martin can offer to India. We designed, developed and produced the world's first operational stealth aircraft, the F-117, and the world's only two current operational 5th generation fighters: the F-22 and F-35," Lall asserted.
Lall said the F-21 delivers an advanced single-engine, multi-role fighter at the most optimal life-cycle cost for the Indian Air Force, with the longest service life of any competitor till 12,000 flight hours.
“The F-21 goes further, faster and stays longer than the competition,” he said, asserting that the F-21 will meet all of India's performance, capability and advanced technology requirements and provide unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes and suppliers throughout India.
"The F-21, in concert with the Rafale and Tejas, will provide an operational gap-filler and will be a game-changer for the Indian Air Force, Indian industry and India-US strategic ties," Lall said.
Lall was in Washington to attend the farewell of outgoing Indian Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla. Lall will be heading to New Delhi to speak at the Raisina Dialogue.
Significance of ISA
He also emphasised the importance of the Industrial Security Agreement between the US and India. “The Industrial Security Agreement (ISA) represents a historic progression between India and the US, and is set to facilitate close technology transfer with Indian private industry,” he asserted.
“The agreement, which was signed during the December 2019 2+2 Dialogue, will also ease the process of doing business, including applying for licences to support mutual interests,” explained Lall. "This agreement will facilitate close technology transfer with private industry in India and ease the process of doing business including applying for licences to support mutual interests, Make-in-India, increased industrial and defence cooperation and regional stability," Lall said.
“To further our relationships, the ISA will enable high-end technologies and defence collaboration to be shared amongst the industry to further leverage Indian industry capabilities and indigenise future R&D and production activities to support mutual US-India interests,” he argued.
“The signing of ISA will provide additional benefits for securing data in the manufacture of defence platforms,” Lall said. He added US defence industry is very encouraged by the positive trend being seen in relations between the two countries, including on the defense-industrial partnership front.
“The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative and India's designation as a major defence partner of the US are historic milestones that signal how important both countries are to one another,” he said.
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“The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), INDOPACOM and Major Defense Partner status, End-Use Monitoring Agreement, Industrial Security Agreement and Tiger Triumph, a major joint military exercise, elevate India's emergence as a stronger strategic partner and represent foundational agreements and exercises that will further future US-India bilateral, industrial and military cooperation,” Lall said.
Noting that the Indo-Pacific region is indeed a top priority of the current US administration, and New Delhi is a central player in its strategy, he said India, the world's largest democracy, shares common values with the US.