Lockheed Martin announced on September 4, 2018, that the F-16 fighter wings will now be built in India by local partner Tata Advanced Systems.

The wings are currently produced in Israel by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), also involved in the F-35 wings production.

"Producing F-16 wings in India will strengthen Lockheed Martin's strategic partnership with Tata and support the Make in India policy," the Indian company said in an official statement.

"This is a strategic business decision that reflects the value of our partnerships with India and the confidence we have in Tata," told a Lockheed Martin spokesman to AeroTime via mail.

In April 2018, India opened a tender for a contract of 114 combat aircraft valued at $15 billion. The fighters are to be built in India as part of the “Make in India” policy started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Lockheed F-16 Block 70 is one of the candidates, along with Boeing F/A-18 E/F Block III, Dassault Rafale F3R, Eurofighter Typhoon, RAC MiG-35, and Saab Gripen III.

However, the transfer of the F-16 wings production is not conditioned to Lockheed Martin winning the tender, according to Vivek Lall, vice president of strategy and business development at Lockheed, reported by Reuters.

 

A difficult procurement

In 2012, Dassault Rafale was selected as the winning bidder in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition started by India in 2004. The French manufacturer was to procure 126 of its fighters to India, for a total of $20 billion.

But following disagreements over the capacity of production under contract by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the project was eventually abandoned and the tender reopened. In 2016, India agreed to acquire 36 Rafales built by Dassault, with the planes to be delivered between 2019 and 2022.

The Indian Air Force is already awaiting several other procurements for its fleet, including 36 Sukhoi Su-30 to be delivered by 2019. Fourth largest air force in the world, the IAF is set to operate eight different types of fighter and attack aircraft once the Rafales will be delivered, a heavy logistical burden. In comparison, the United States Air Force operates six different platforms.