The American F-16 Viper fighters, for which Bulgaria negotiates, will almost certainly be produced in India. Lockheed Martin proposed to open a new factory in the Asian country and move the production of US planes into it in an attempt to win a major military order from the New Delhi authorities. The company will make India the world’s only F-16 production center to serve both the Indian Army and foreign markets, Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin, told Reuters.
“We see current demand outside India for more than 200 aircraft, and the value of these initial acquisition programs is likely to exceed $ 20 billion,” Lall said. Until now, only the wings of fighters were to be produced in the crowded Asian country. The airplanes themselves had to be assembled in Greenville, South Carolina, but their production would obviously move much east.
Bahrain and Slovakia have already selected the F-16 Block 70, which are also offered to India, and Bulgaria is also negotiating for them. “We have talks with Bulgaria and several other countries, 10 countries, there is a kind of renaissance of the F-16,” says the head. India needs 42 squadrons of fighters, or about 750 planes, to defend itself against expected attacks from China and Pakistan. The country is preparing to retire its old Russian MiG-21 fighters and replace them with modern combat aviation.
The original order will be for 114 combat planes valued at more than $ 15 billion. Lockheed Martin’s competitors are Boeing’s F / A-18, Saab’s Gripen, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian fighter jets. Large-scale military orders are not unusual for India. The country is the largest importer of weapons for the past 7 decades, not to buy Russian and American weapons. Its armament is fueled by complicated relations with neighbors (especially with Pakistan).
Washington and New Delhi have been negotiating a F-16 plant in the Asian country since early 2017, but conversations have been difficult, mainly because of President Donald Trump’s unwillingness to export abroad. If Lockheed Martin actually moves its production to F-16 in India, it will be a huge boost to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Mody’s India Manufacturing Project. The aim of the project is to create a base for the defense industry as well as to open jobs for the thousands of young people entering the labor market on a monthly basis.