New Delhi. 03 February 2020. “The F-21 provides unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes, including Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and suppliers throughout India, to establish new business relationships with Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders in the U.S. and around the globe,” reiterated William L. Blair, Vice President & Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin India in an exclusive interview to Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) .

ADU. Now that you have taken over the reins of Lockheed Martin in India what are your short and long-term plans?

WLB. India is a critical market for Lockheed Martin, and we have an established defence and aerospace footprint in the country that spans over 30 years. I am deeply excited to lead the business during this defining period of evolution in India’s defence capabilities. We will continue to partner with our customers, partners, national agencies, local industry and research organizations in line with the national missions of Make in India, Skill India, Startup India and Swachh Bharat. We look to expand collaborations with local industry to support the growth of an indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem, advance the aerospace and start-up ecosystem, and strengthen India’s strategic security and industrial capabilities.

ADU. Lockheed Martin was to begin supplying F-16 wings from Indian plant in 2020. How near are you to it?

WLB. Building fighter wings in India is a natural next step that builds on our successful partnerships with Tata on the C-130J airlifter and S-92 helicopter. The first prototype wing will be delivered by Tata this year (2020), which will enable the company to become a certified supplier. Tata will then be able to submit bids for wing manufacturing beginning in late 2020 or early 2021

ADU. Lockheed Martin has been projecting F-21 production in India to bolster its Make in India drive.  Have you zeroed out on the Indian Supply Chain for F-21 production in India?

WLB. It is a bit premature to provide such an estimate at this time, but we are actively engaged with Tata, our strategic partner in India, and Tier 1 suppliers about Make in India opportunities on the F-21 and other programs. We’ve had productive and positive discussions with a number of Indian companies, and we are continuing to engage with Indian industry about potential F-21 opportunities. The F-21 provides unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes, including Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and suppliers throughout India, to establish new business relationships with Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders in the U.S. and around the globe.

ADU. Lockheed Martin has a large portfolio of businesses. How are you leveraging the breadth of your businesses to enhance the F-21 offering?

WLB. Lockheed Martin is committed to leveraging our expertise across systems and capabilities that span air, sea, space, land and cyber to support our Indian customers’ missions. We have been investing in Indian industry and manufacturing since 2010 and the launch of Make-in-India has provided further impetus to our plans. We have a joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems in Hyderabad which produces major aerostructure components for the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. This is the sole supplier of these components to Lockheed Martin and is an integral part of our global supply chain.

Our other joint venture in Hyderabad is between Tata and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. This Joint Venture manufactures components for the S-92 commercial helicopter and is also fully integrated into the global supply chain. Our partnership with the Indian aerospace and defence ecosystem coupled with our understanding of user requirements, offers us the unique advantage of being able to rapidly and efficiently realize our blue-print for the F-21 offer.

ADU. As acceptance of necessity (AON) for the MH-60R buy is valid for 18 months, which ordains that the order will have to be made in that time frame, with the clock ticking away what is the development on this front?

WLB. Lockheed Martin stands ready to support India and the United States for a government-to-government procurement of 24 MH-60R helicopters as part of the Multi Role Helicopter program. We are confident the MH-60R “Romeo” is the right aircraft for India’s Navy as it provides a vital capability for the Navy in the Indo-Pacific region. In addition, an MH-60R acquisition allows the Indian Navy to benefit from the ongoing support provided for over 300 MH-60Rs in operation around the world today. Since this is an FMS deal, we won’t be able to share more details at this point of time.

ADU. Can you elaborate on Lockheed Martin’s association with ISRO?

WLB. India is a key contributor to the success of the global space community. The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is a primary member of the 14-agency International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) that collaborates to define the Global Exploration Roadmap (GER). Lockheed Martin is proud to have participated in international workshops conducted in India and we value the relationships we have developed with government and academia in India.

For more than 50 years, Lockheed Martin Space has built a legacy of expertise and a reputation as a global leader in space for Civil, Military, and Commercial applications. We offer a complete portfolio covering the entire space value chain. We have a strong commitment to international collaboration and expanding global relationships. We welcome the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of India’s goals in space and look forward to expanding our engagements with India’s space industry.

ADU. Is S-90 still in your mind for India’s VVIP chopper needs?

WLB. With speed and security, the S-92 can fly high above traffic and crowds, delivering world and business leaders to their destinations. We complement this proven performance with available customer support 24/7, 365 days a year through our one-of-a-kind Customer Care Center – ensuring reliable, safe and comfortable VIP transportation every time. These benefits, coupled with a stellar safety record and an airframe certified for the harshest of conditions, have led 11 nations around the world to select the S-92 for their Head-of-State missions. 

ADU. What are the latest features and capabilities of your Javelin anti-tank weapon system?  

WLB. Javelin is the world’s most versatile one man-portable and platform-employed anti-tank and multi-target precision weapon system. Using fire-and-forget technology, the missile guides itself to the target without external controls – increasing the operator’s survivability. The weapon system can engage targets between 65 meters and 4 kilometers in most operational conditions – allowing for use in urban or mountainous areas.

The F-Model, which is the next advancement of Javelin, features a multi-purpose warhead that expands the weapon’s target set to include soft targets. This variant also boasts a modernized control actuation system. The F-Model is expected to enter production this year. Concurrently, we are developing the G-Model, which will improve upon the F-Model, while reducing cost and weight. This variant will also feature an uncooled infrared seeker, as well as modernized guidance electronics for enhanced performance and capacity for future improvements. 

Additionally, the next-generation handheld launch unit, known as the Light Weight Command Launch Unit (LWCLU), will offer improved performance, while reducing size and weight. The LWCLU will also include much longer detection and identification ranges, increased battery life, full-screen video, as well as sharper images through image processing. 

ADU. What is the status on Lockheed Martin’s offering for the Naval Utility Helicopter Program?

WLB. Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, responded to the request for Expression of Interest (EOI) for the India Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) program in 2019. We look forward to the prospect of providing this capability to the Government of India and remain committed to fostering technology development, manufacturing and strategic collaboration in India – all the while maintaining high-value, high-skill technical jobs in the U.S., abroad and across our supply base. We strongly feel globally structured programs like this one create unique opportunities for knowledge-sharing and technology transfer that strengthen the industries of all involved.

ADU. What is Lockheed Martin’s agenda for DEFEXPO 2020?

WLB. We’re proud to participate in DEFEXPO 2020, where we can showcase our commitment to ‘Make in India’ directly to the largest gathering of defence and aerospace partners in the country. Lockheed Martin continues to build upon its more than three-decades of partnership with India by increasing our collaborations with local industry to support the evolution of an indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem, and further advancing India’s strategic security and industrial capabilities.

Lockheed Martin’s goals at the show includes building on the company’s existing foundation in India by identifying additional strategic partners from across the country, to include companies of all sizes — large, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups.

For the past decade, we have supported the growth and development of India’s innovation and start-up ecosystem, and look forward to strengthening those partnerships to advance India’s defence industry well into the future.

At the expo, company representatives will seek to discuss partnership opportunities with Tier 1 suppliers and prospective Indian industry partners that strengthen India-U.S. defence industrial ties and Make in India opportunities.

DEFEXPO also provides us with an opportunity to spotlight our platforms and programs for the country. Some of our displays will include;

Additionally, the show gives us a platform to reiterate our partnerships in India. We are proud of our industry associations with Department of Science and Technology and Tata Trusts for India Innovation Growth Program; with Women in Aviation (India Chapter) for advancing STEM education through our program ‘Girl’s In Aviation Day’; apprenticeship program through our JVs in Hyderabad; mentoring Delhi Technological University students in Unmanned Aerial Vehicle design and development; and advancing India’s cyber security capabilities through an education program launched with Data Security Council of India.