Lockheed Martin has signed an agreement with Indian government-run Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to investigate the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) procurement of 114 F-21 fighter jets as part of a contract worth $18 billion. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was reached by Lockheed Martin and BEL at the recent DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh with more than 1,000 companies in attendance. The nation hopes to become a major manufacturing hub for both commercial and military electronic and aerospace products.
“We are excited to begin exploring F-21 opportunities with BEL, one of India’s leading aerospace and defense companies,” said Dr Vivek Lall, vice president of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics. Lall notes that if India makes the F-21 its fighter aircraft of choice, it will be accessing the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem with Lockheed Martin: “An F-21 partnership with India integrates Indian industry, including BEL, into the world’s largest and most successful fighter aircraft ecosystem and demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s commitment to India.”
Almost one year ago (April 2019), the IAF issued a request for information (RFI) to acquire 114 fighter jets at a cost of about $18 billion. Top contenders for the procurement include the F-21 fighter aircraft from Lockheed Martin, F/A-18 fighters from Boeing, the Rafale aircraft from Dassault Aviation, the Typhoon from Eurofighter (a joint operation of BAE Systems and Leonardo), the JAS 39 Gripen aircraft from Saab and Russian aircraft MiG 35 aircraft. “We are happy to collaborate with Lockheed Martin, which is a global major in the aerospace sector. We are eagerly looking forward to cash in on this co-operation to address domestic and international market needs in this sector,” said Anandi Ramalingam, BEL director of marketing. The F-21 is a single-jet fighter aircraft with outstanding service life of 12,000 flight hours.