* Obama Administration backed sale of F-16s to India
* Trump Admin may want to review the proposals - Lockheed
* No threat to U.S. jobs if F-16s made in India
By Sanjeev Miglani and Mike Stone
NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON, Feb 9 U.S. defence firm
Lockheed Martin wants to push ahead with plans to move
production of its F-16 combat jets to India, but understands
President Donald Trump's administration may want to take a
"fresh look" at the proposal.
With no more orders for the F-16 from the Pentagon, Lockheed
plans to use its Fort Worth, Texas plant instead to produce the
fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that the United
States Air Force is transitioning to.
Lockheed would switch F-16 production to India, as long as
the Indian government agrees to order hundreds of the planes
that its air force desperately needs.
Trump has criticised U.S. companies that have moved
manufacturing overseas and which then sell their products back
to the U.S. In his first few weeks in office, he has pushed
companies, from automakers to pharmaceutical firms, to produce
more in the United States.
In Lockheed's case, however, the plan is to build the F-16
to equip the Indian Air Force, and not sell them back into the
Lockheed said it has been talking to Trump's transition and
governance teams as well as the U.S. Congress for several months
on its plans, including the proposed sale of F-16 planes to
India, a spokesman told Reuters in Washington.
"We've briefed the Administration on the current proposal,
which was supported by the Obama Administration as part of a
broader cooperative dialogue with the Government of India," the
"We understand that the Trump Administration will want to
take a fresh look at some of these programs, and we stand
prepared to support that effort to ensure that any deal of this
importance is properly aligned with U.S. policy priorities."
India is expected to spend $250 billion on defence
modernisation over the next decade, analysts say, and there is
concern that a veto on making the F-16 in India would not only
hit Lockheed, but also threaten other military contracts to come
up in India for Boeing, Northrop and Raytheon
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on
the plan to build the plane in India.
NO THREAT TO U.S. JOBS
Lockheed has said that moving F-16 assembly to India would
create 200 engineering jobs in the United States to help support
the production line in India.
It has also said that about 800 workers in the United States
making the non-Lockheed parts for the F-16 would keep their jobs
if construction shifts to India.
"We are offering to make the F-16 Block-70 aircraft with a
local partner in India. This is an offer exclusive to India,"
Randall L. Howard, head of F-16 business development, told
Reuters ahead of India's biggest air show beginning in Bengaluru
In India, the F-16 is up against SAAB's Gripen
combat aircraft, which the Swedish firm has also offered to make
locally, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi drives a Make-in-India
campaign to build a domestic aerospace industry and reduce
The Indian government is expected to decide this year on
which company will build a single-engine fighter plane, in
collaboration with a local partner. A defence official said the
process was at a very early stage.
The Indian air force alone needs 200-250 fighters over the
next 10 years, its former chief Arup Raha said before he left
office in December.
Defence ties between India and the United States have grown
rapidly, with U.S. arms sales of more than $4 billion in
2012-15, mostly under government-to-government foreign military
sales, upstaging long-term supplier Russia and even Israel.
Lockheed's executive director for international business
development, Abhay Paranjape, said his team has met with
representatives from 40 defence and aviation firms in India to
help build the ancillary network for the aircraft assembly
"We want to be prepared, that's why we started the ground
work," he said, adding Lockheed has also scouted possible
factory sites in India.
Lockheed has a joint venture with India's Tata Advanced
Systems Ltd to make airframe components for the C-130J Super
Hercules transport plane and the S-92 helicopter.
"The capability for building components exists here, it's
been proven with the C-130s. The challenge now is to pick the
right partners," Paranjape said.
(Reporting by Sanjeev Miglani in NEW DELHI and Mike Stone in
WASHINGTON; Editing by Ian Geoghegan)