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If India chooses F-21, it will plug into 'world's largest fighter plane ecosystem': Lockheed Martin

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NEW DELHI (PTI): US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin on Tuesday said its offer of F-21 fighter jets is a very robust 'Make in India' proposition and if the country goes for the deal it will be "plugging into the world's largest fighter plane ecosystem".

Vivek Lall, the vice president of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin, said the initial demand from India is for 114 aircraft, but expressed confidence that over time, it will continue to grow.

"Participation in the global production is what the F-21 has to offer," he said.

The global demand for F-21 aircraft, of course, would be fuelled from India, he said at the 2019 Supplier Conference organised by Lockheed Martin and Tata group in New Delhi.

In April, the Indian Air Force issued an RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender to acquire 114 jets at a cost of around US$ 18 billion, which is billed as one of the world's biggest military procurement in recent years.

The top contenders for the deal include Lockheed's F-21, Boeing's F/A-18, Dassault Aviation's Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft Mig 35 and Saab's Gripen.

Lall said Tuesday their strategic partner is Tata and the collaboration is an engagement to build an ecosystem that is not just of few players.

Lall said the demand from India will create long-term value for F-21 fighter jets.

"What is very key and important is the after sales support...We have over 3000 F-16s flying all across the world and that ecosystem is the largest one in the world.

"So, when we talk about modifications and upgrades, spares, support equipment etc - this is really plugging into the world's largest fighter (plane) ecosystem as India looks into its long term needs," he said.

He said the firm is looking for a long-term partnership and asserted that F-21 is unique for India for various reasons.

"It is a very robust Make in India proposition," Lall said. He said that the company has got in touch with over 200 companies in India till date and the "list" of such companies keeps getting bigger.

If Lockheed Martin gets the contract for the jets, the F-21 'Make in India' would happen in a phased manner, he said.

He said the F-21 platform has over 130 different types of configurations with weapons that have been integrated over time and is the most versatile with respect to new weapons integration.

"Specific weapon capability will depend on the customer and what they want. Post the award of contract, there is a phased production plan. The RFI (Request for Information) mandates certain planes to come in a flyaway condition and then we would be going into various phases of production as more and more indigenous content comes on board," he said.

The idea of this suppliers conference is to get everyone together over a three-day period and make sure that executives from US can have a dialogue with the Indian industry, he said.

Lall had told PTI in May that Lockheed Martin will not sell its newly rolled out F-21 fighter jet to any other country if India places an order for 114 planes, in an offer aimed at pitching itself ahead of its other US, European and Russian competitors for the mega deal.

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