News Analysis |
Lockheed Martin, one of the arms and military aviation giants of the United States, has offered India that it will only sell its new fighter jet F-21 provided the contract is awarded to the company. Not only will the particular jet not be sold to any other country except India, but Lockheed Martin will also collaborate with indigenous manufacturers such as Tata to assemble these jets in India, boasting national economy.
“Lockheed Martin is committed to strategic, long-term international defense partnerships with India,” the statement released by the company read. “Our proposed partnerships with India … are ideally suited to not just meet but exceed India’s capability and defense-industrial needs.”
Recently, Indian Air Force had put out an Initial tender for the procurement of 114 Fighter Jets worth $18 billion which got aviation companies from around the world interested to win the bid. Companies from the United States, France, Russia, and Europe with equivalent jets are also in the race but Lockheed Martin believes that the solution it is providing, in the form of the F-21, is the most effective of all.
Indian Prime Minister had even defended the Rafael agreement after the Balakot deal, saying, that had India procured these jets already, the result would have been different after the Pulwama attack.
“If you look at the US government data, the advantage is 30-40 percent in terms of cost-effectiveness. This is lower compared to competitors. If you aggregate with years and years of operations in the life cycle, it is a huge amount of saving for India if it goes ahead with F-21,” said Vivek Lall, Vice President for Strategy and Business development of Lockheed Martin.
Enhanced Military Corporation Between India and the United States
Since last two decades, military cooperation between India and the United States has been exponentially growing to mark a sharp contrast to the cold war era when India was the largest buyer of Russian arms. But due to geopolitical reasons, involving the common goal of countering China, and India’s bid to decrease its dependence on Russia for military hardware has brought both India and the United States of America closer. Last year, both Lockheed Martin and Tata signed a MoU in which it was decided that the F-16’s wings will be manufactured in India and sold to countries that are operating the mentioned jet.
Another reason why India wants to steer away from Russian aviation is because it has not been able to achieve the feats, as evident by the humiliation it had to face after the standoff with Pakistan on February 28. The initial tender of procurement has come months after the failure India had to face in Balakot.
It is pertinent to mention that India has already given the order of 36 advance Rafael fighter jets in the controversial deal of € 7.8 billion. Indian Prime Minister had even defended the Rafael agreement after the Balakot deal, saying, that had India procured these jets already, the result would have been different after the Pulwama attack.
At first, F-21 looks like a block 70 variant of F-16 itself but Lockheed Martin stresses that the former is far more sophisticated than the latter.
But same has been propagated about the SU-30 jet over the years. Despite having made the case and bragged about the invincibility of the SU-30 MKI, Russian made fighter jet, India failed to make an impact at the time of standoff and rather got two of the planes shot down, one alleged to be a SU-30. It, however, does not mean that India is going to shun Russia all of a sudden as it is still dependent on Russia for maintenance and parts of its bulwark of Russian planes, which will take a considerable time to be replaced.
Pakistan’s F-16’s Comparison with Latest F-21
F-16 is Pakistan’s premium elite fighter jet for over decades. There has been a question about the parity of both these jets in terms of superiority. At first, F-21 looks like a block 70 variant of F-16 itself but Lockheed Martin stresses that the former is far more sophisticated than the latter.
F-21 is integrated with long-range Infrared Red Search and Track system and can carry 40% more Air-to-Air payload than the F-16. So far, the proposal and the tender is in its initial phase and the process is to take several years before F-21s become part of Indian Airforce’s fleet.