The Tata Advanced Systems and Lockheed Martin deal, which comes days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States, does not have the official government of India imprimatur and was signed in France on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show by two private entities.
However, the agreement has its significance on several counts.
- Lockheed Martin signed an agreement with India’s Tata Advanced Systems on Monday to produce F-16 fighter planes in India.
- The deal does not have the official government of India imprimatur and was signed in France on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show by two private entities.
First up, it will result in Lockheed winding down its production in Fort Worth, Texas and moving the assembly lines to India, resulting in loss of jobs in US and a gain for India, although both companies insist that some jobs would remain in Texas.
Although the Obama administration did not baulk at the deal, the current dispensation – which has not officially expressed a view on the matter – has a strong aversion to such flight of jobs. Moreover, the F-16, although a fourth-generation aircraft that is generally viewed as being at the tail end of its lifespan, is flown by many air forces in the Indian Ocean region that are not necessarily regarded as friendly by India-notable Pakistan.
The proposed joint venture, which will have to be officially okayed by both New Delhi and Washington, envisages the production of F-16 Block 70 fighter in India, and it is not clear how it will affect the inventory and supply of the aircraft and its parts to countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other such countries that fly it.
Some Indian analysts have expressed reservations about the vintage of the aircraft considering many countries are now into fifth gen aircraft.
“India a dumping ground for obsolete weapon systems?” strategic affairs analyst Brahma Chellaney wondered in a tweet. Others cautioned that it was not yet a done deal, just an “understanding.”