• It makes F16s around the world & wants to create a capability in India

By Sangeeta Saxena

New Delhi. 27 May 2016. In a government to government  defence deal, geopolitical repercussions , sales strategies and selling the state-of-the-art technology  become the nation’s and not the manufacturer’s commitment alone. The ability of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics to incorporate the latest technologies into the F-16 , expanding mission roles , improving combat capability, with a tremendous upgrade capacity , promises to create the much needed  multi role fighter for Air Forces of the world and India is one of its most favoured destinations, is the feel India is getting since the American major announced its interest in creating a final assembly line in India at the Make-in-India week at Mumbai in February just gone by.

“ We make F 16s around the world. We are interested in creating the capability in India. At the moment all C-130 airplanes flying have parts made in India. We are engaged fully across the landscape in India and over the years we have developed a great supplier base. Lockheed Martin understands that meeting the specific needs of each partner, the company insures that the F-16 maintains an unmatched record of program performance and mission success. The F-16 Made-in-India will be the right choice for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and a great asset in maintain national security,” said George Standridge, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ vice president of business development while speaking to a select group of journalists , on his trip to India last week.

On being asked about India not liking the sale of upgraded F16s  to Pakistan and about the Senate’s decision to stop subsidy on purchase of F16s by Pakistan he reiterated that these were US government’s decisions and they will be the ones who should give  a befitting reply.

“India’s relationship with Lockheed Martin has been providing access to the highest technology, opportunities for co-development, low-risk licensed production, transfer of technology, and opportunities for extensive long-term business. F-16 made in India with Tata’s as our partner will be the right choice for Indian Air Force , ” he added.

The Northrop Grumman APG-80 AESA radar is the option India will get for its F16 if ordered. US claims that the radar provides outstanding situational awareness and detection; ultrahigh-resolution synthetic aperture radar mapping, fully interleaved modes of operations with automatic terrain following; and air-to-air tracking of multiple targets, seems to be just right for India feels Lockheed.

“We believe that  F-16V will satisfy our customers’ emerging requirements and prepare them to better interoperate with the 5th generation fighters, the F-35 and F-22. It  is the choice of nations, not of  air forces alone. The Super Viper has the most advanced technologies and capabilities available today on the international market. It is truly the ultimate fourth generation fighter with all it brings to the battlefield,” George confidently stated.

The fusion of net-centric operations and on board data provides a total battle space picture and optimizes mission accomplishment. The F-16 was the first multi-role fighter to incorporate a data link capability, and the IAF’s Operational Data Link (ODL) can be integrated onto the F-16IN when available, ensuring interoperability with other IAF aircraft. Data integrates through all phases of the mission – from mission planning, navigation, communication and target prosecution to return to base – transforming the pilot from an aircraft system manager to a tactician, is Lockheed Martin’s claim.

The new cockpit  is one where the  pilots receive easy-to-interpret information via the all-digital cockpit and helmet -mounted cueing system. The large color displays are capable of fusing data from on- and off-board sensors, reducing the workload and enabling the pilot to focus on the mission. The low radar signature of the F-16 reduces detection by enemy radars. Its single-engine design has smaller infrared and visual signature than twin-engine fighters. The internal electronic warfare and towed decoy systems, provided by Raytheon, avoid or defeat the most advanced threats. Raytheon’s combat-proven EW systems are deployed on F-16 aircraft worldwide. Superior agility and excellent pilot situational awareness reduce vulnerability to attack, while critical systems redundancy and shielding enhance survivability, the company has been informing right since the aircraft has gone through these up gradations.

The F-16 can be fitted with engine of India’s choice be it Pratt & Whitney or GE  as both incorporate the latest technology, including full authority digital engine control, for maximum fuel efficiency and performance.

“Naturally we would gravitate to Tata for partnership for the FAL.  We know them well and we have worked with them well.  We are ready to go with the Indian government when it is ready to go. In longer term our job is to understand what is the future requirement of Indian Air Force (IAF) and other Indian forces,” George said .

And this two hours plus of interaction got forth a feeling-falcons can turn into vipers and vipers into anything else but India sure is the US aviation giant’s most sought after market and no number of disappointments like MMRCA deal can push them down hard enough not to bounce back into action with a new sight , renewed aims and perpetual upgrades to meet the need of the IAF.