Lockheed Martin reportedly offers India F-21 exclusivity

15 May 2019

The proposed F-21 fighter for India features a fixed refuelling probe and enhanced weapons configuration. Source: Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin has reportedly promised that the F-21 will be exclusively operated by the Indian Air Force should the nation select it for its USD18 billion, 114-aircraft requirement.

The aircraft was revealed in February as the company's offer for the programme, an F-16 Fighting Falcon derivative that has been tailored to include Indian-specific technologies. The aircraft is being offered in conjunction with Indian manufacturer Tata Advanced Systems.

The F-21 is being pitched against rival systems, including the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen, and Mikoyan MiG-35, and the Indian press has reported that Lockheed Martin is offering exclusivity to India if it selects the F-21, guaranteeing that it would not be sold to any other nation.

The company did not comment on this report but it did confirm that the promise was based on the aircraft being produced in-country, which is an incentive for India in its defence procurements.

"This procurement is a 'Make in India' [initiative] and therefore aircraft will be manufactured locally in India," a company spokesperson told Jane's .

The relationship with Tata would result in the Indian company being responsible for the manufacture of the aircraft in-country.

"The exact contours of the procurement are yet to be released by the government but that is the premise," the spokesperson added.

Differences between the F-16 Block 70 - the newest variant of this family of fighters - and the F-21 will include cockpit upgrades such as a new large area display, an advanced electronic warfare system that is exclusive to India, and an aerial refuelling probe that the spokesperson said will make it the only fighter that contains both probe/drogue and boom aerial refuelling capabilities.

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