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Firm intent: Lockheed Martin leans on local companies to boost Indian F-21 bid

Lockheed Martin's F-21 fighter jet for India is equipped with an advanced electronic warfare system and triple missile launcher adapters. The F-21 also has a dorsal conformal fairing for extra fuel and the integration of specialised domestic systems required by the Indian Air Force. (Lockheed Martin)

Lockheed Martin is leveraging its manufacturing ecosystem in India to support its proposal to supply the Indian Air Force (IAF) with F-21 fighter jets as part of India's Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) acquisition project.

The USD18 billion MRFA project was announced by New Delhi in April 2018, following a request for information (RFI) from the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD). The MRFA programme is the successor of the defunct Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) project, which was announced in 2001. The MRFA project seeks to acquire 114 fighter aircraft (or six squadrons).

The MRFA project has attracted bids from seven companies, according to previous disclosures by the companies. Apart from Lockheed Martin, Boeing (offering its F/A-18E/F and F-15EX), Dassault (Rafale), Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug (Typhoon), Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG-35), Saab (JAS-39 Gripen E/F), and Sukhoi (Su-35) are also competing for the acquisition.

However, Lockheed Martin executives told Janes that the company's development of an aerospace ecosystem in India has bolstered the standing of the F-21 for the MRFA acquisition.

“We established two joint ventures – Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Limited (TLMAL) and then Tata Sikorsky Aerospace Limited (TSAL) - 12 years ago. This investment has been a catalyst for the aerospace and defence ecosystem under ‘Make in India',” said William Blair, vice-president and chief executive, Lockheed Martin (India). “These programmes create a huge catalyst for us to both meet the Indian core requirements [of the MRFA] as well as look further and beyond, in terms of defence exports.”

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