BENGALURU, India --- Whoever bags the next big fighter jet deal will have to set up a facility in India and produce those planes under the proposed strategic partnership model—with no exceptions granted, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Tuesday.
He was responding to a question on recent reports that US-plane maker Lockheed Martin is reviewing the clearances taken to make F-16 fighter jets under the Obama administration following the inauguration of the Trump presidency.
Under its planned strategic partnership model, India will select private Indian firms to exclusively manufacture military equipment for a specified period.
The Indian partner for a multi-billion-dollar single-engine fighter jet deal will be identified through a model prescribed by a government committee, while the foreign partner will be chosen on criteria such as transfer of technology and the financial proposal made by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
The two leading OEMs for the 200-plane tender are Saab of Sweden and Lockheed Martin.
Parrikar said it’s for Lockheed to sort the matter with the Union government as India will not provide any exceptions. “This question you have to put to Boeing, Lockheed,” Parrikar told reporters on the sidelines of the 11th Aero India show in Bengaluru.
“What I am saying is what I want—I want it to be Made in India. Export to third nation is an additional bonus (and) if someone wants to shift the facility from somewhere else or whether he sets up a new one—it is his choice. I am in no way concerned with it.
“And if there is a restriction on some movement—as far as a I am concerned as of now there is no such issue, no one has written to me, I only read it in the media—it is for that company to take care. Because whenever I am going to go for a strategic partner, the condition of OEM is their government’s approval for whatever they are proposing. If they are proposing, their government will have to give them in-principle approval so that they can quote (their offer). Otherwise they can’t quote.”
With no more orders for the F-16 from the Pentagon, Lockheed had planned to use its Fort Worth, Texas plant to produce the fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that the US Air Force is transitioning to. Lockheed would then switch F-16 production to India, as long as the Union government agrees to order hundreds of the planes.
“We’ve briefed the administration on the current proposal, which was supported by the Obama administration as part of a broader cooperative dialogue with the government of India,” a Lockheed spokesman was cited as saying by Reuters earlier this month.
“We understand that the Trump administration will want to take a fresh look at some of these programmes, and we stand prepared to support that effort to ensure that any deal of this importance is properly aligned with US policy priorities.”
Saab has heavily advertised its jet at the air show, saying it will create a world-class facility in India to make Gripen fighter jets. (end of excerpt)
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(EDITOR’S NOTE: Parrikar continues to mention Boeing as a contender, and does not mention the widely-reported requirement that the new license-built fighter be single-engined.)