"Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems Limited signed a landmark agreement affirming the companies’ intent to join hands to produce the F-16 Block 70 in India," the release stated.
The release noted this "unprecedented" partnership will allow India to produce, operate and export the F-16 Block 70.
The agreement builds on a previous agreement between Lockheed Martin and TASL, which successfully build airframe components for the C-130J airlifter and the S-92 helicopter, the release added.
"The strategic partnership procurement model mandates a foreign — Indian vendor tie-up for bidding. The TASL & Lockheed Martin agreement is an in principle tie-up to facilitate bidding. The tie-up will remain on paper till TASL is designated strategic partner, which may never happen," Vijainder K Thakur, senior editor of Geopolitics and a former IAF squadron leader, said.
The Lockheed announcement comes in the backdrop of the protectionist policy followed by US President Donald Trump to provide much-needed employment to thousands jobless in the US. "F-16 production in India supports thousands of Lockheed Martin and F-16 supplier jobs in the US, creates new manufacturing jobs in India, and positions the Indian industry at the center of the most extensive fighter aircraft supply ecosystem in the world," the statement said, considering Trump's approach towards employment.
"Our partnership significantly strengthens the F-16 "Make in India" offer, creates and maintains numerous new job opportunities in India and the US, and brings the world's most combat-proven multi-role fighter aircraft to India," Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, added.
It is considered that assembly of aircraft in India will increase US jobs not reduce them, as Lockheed Martin would have to step up production of major assemblies and kit components for assembly in India.
"You could say manufacture in India would limit US job expansion as a result of the deal, but that doesn't contravene Trump policies," Vijainder K Thakur added.
The manufacturing experience of airframe components for the C-130J airlift aircraft and the S-92 helicopter provides a major advantage to TASL for gaining the confidence of Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin claims that approximately 3,200 F-16s are in operation in 26 countries including Pakistan.