Despite Trump, Lockheed Pushes Plan To Build F-16s In India

REUTERS/Susanne Lindholm/TT News Agency.

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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A prominent U.S. defense contractor is in talks with India about producing an iconic American fighter jet abroad, despite President Donald Trump’s efforts to keep manufacturing jobs in the U.S.

Lockheed Martin told reporters Thursday that discussions with the Indian government over plans to move the production facilities for the F-16 Fighting Falcon from the U.S. to India are progressing.

“The conversation at this point has progressed between governments,” Randall L. Howard, Lockheed’s head of F-16 business development, told Reuters reporters at an air show in Bengaluru.

India’s defense ministry invited foreign manufacturers to produce single-engine combat aircraft in India last year. Not only is India determined to replace its fleet of outdated Soviet-era fighters, but it also aspires to develop its industries and reduce imports to advance the country’s “Made in India” initiative.

The F-16 is being phased out in the U.S. for newer programs, such as the F-35 Lighting II joint strike fighter. Abroad, the F-16 remains one of the most widely used fighter jets in the world today.

Other competitors considering moving their production facilities to India include Sweden’s Saab, which has offered to produce the Gripen in India.

If the deal with Lockheed goes through, the production facilities for the F-16 will be moved from Texas to India, and the fighter will be produced “exclusively” in India. In addition to manufacturing, support programs may also be moved overseas.

The deal is expected to create 1,000 jobs abroad.

The relocation plan received strong support from the Obama administration. “We have had very strong support up to this point from the U.S. government,” Howard explained.

While the factory in India would be supplying the Indian military and other global buyers of the F-16, there are reportedly concerns that the deal will encounter opposition from the new administration, as Trump has targeted a number of companies for their plans to move production overseas.

Lockheed did not provide a comment at the time of publication.

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