‘We Intend to Create Far More Than an F-16 ‘Assembly Line’ In India. We Plan to Introduce Two New Words into the Lexicon of International Fighter Aircraft Manufacturing: India and Exclusive’
Since the Sikorsky S-70B was accepted by the Indian Navy, how optimistic are you about the fresh tender for 24 multi-role helicopters that is to be issued soon?
We view it as a positive sign that the procurement of 24 maritime multi-role helicopters for the Indian Navy is gaining momentum. It is an important programme that can quickly provide India with the latest and most proven Anti-Surface/Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASuW/ASW) technologies available. Now that the procurement options have been opened up to include the MH-60R, we are looking for ways to leverage that hot production line to expedite delivery to the Indian Navy.
The significant investments made into the MH-60R by the US Navy and industry provide the unique assurance that it has undertaken the most rigorous testing. The US Navy has a robust roadmap to add capabilities to the MH-60R as the aircraft will be in their fleet for several decades. With over 450 Seahawks flying around the world and millions of flight hours, the expertise that Sikorsky/Lockheed Martin is able to offer is unmatched.
The deal for 123 naval multi-role helicopters and the 111 naval utility helicopters will be under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model. What are your plans for these two different sets of procurement since the AON for the latter has already been accorded?
Sikorsky and its parent Lockheed Martin have been pioneers in developing meaningful and durable relationships and investments with the Indian industry. Carefully crafted, the SP model should provide India with the assurances of job creation and self-sufficiency, similar to the partnerships Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin have emulated in Japan, Korea and Turkey for example. The benefits are mutual and we are excited to continue supporting India as it grows into a strategic player in this industry.
Brief us through the weapons management system that you will offer with the Sikorsky S-70B.
We defer to the Indian Navy to talk about their weapons management system requirements, but we acknowledge we have impressive technologies available in that field. Our core architecture and smart operator system fully integrates the data of advanced sensors to provide prioritised, actionable knowledge to aircrews and commanders enabling the best tactical decisions in today’s fast moving, highly complex, information loaded warfare environment. The US Navy and many other modern navies operate our systems around the world with maximum efficiency.
The Indian government is relooking at the capabilities of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft. How does the F-16 figure in this context especially since you have offered to produce it in India?
The F-16 is the only aircraft programme in this competition with the proven performance and industrial scale to meet India’s operational needs and ‘Make in India’ priorities. No competing aircraft comes close to matching the F-16’s operational effectiveness and industrial success. The success of the F-16 — 3,000 F-16s flying today with 25 leading air forces — is a testament to the cost-effective, combat-proven capabilities the F-16 delivers. That combination of cost and capabilities is why F-16 production opportunities today total more than 400 aircraft, including India.
We intend to create far more than an F-16 ‘assembly line’ in India. We plan to introduce two new words into the lexicon of international fighter aircraft manufacturing: ‘India’ and ‘exclusive’. F-16 production in India will be exclusive — something that has never before been presented by any other fighter aircraft manufacturer, past or present. The F-16 gives Indian industry a unique opportunity to become a part of the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.
Lockheed Martin has offered the F-16V to India. What are its capabilities?
The F-16 Block 70 being proposed to India will be the most advanced, most technologically advanced and capable F-16 ever produced. The F-16 Block 70 brings the most modern avionics, a proven AESA radar, a modernised cockpit, advanced weapons, longer range with conformal fuel tanks, auto ground collision avoidance capability, and an advanced engine with an extended service life. The F-16 is also the only offering with an operational, combat-proven Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. Northrop Grumman’s advanced APG-83 AESA radar on the F-16 Block 70 provides F-16s with 5th Generation fighter radar capabilities by leveraging hardware and software commonality with F-22 and F-35 AESA radars.
The F-16 continues to aerodynamically outperform its competitors and advanced technologies are continually integrated into the F-16. Block 70 mission systems are completely new and leverage technologies from the F-35. Structural and avionic upgrades to the US F-16 fleet will extend service life to 2045, while the F-16 becomes even more capable as technology enhancements from the F-22 and F-35 are continuously integrated across all three platforms.
Has India shown interest in acquiring more C-130J for the Indian Coast Guard, the Border Security Force or the National Disaster Management Authority?
It would be inappropriate for us to speak on behalf of the government of India, but Lockheed Martin stands ready to support India’s airlift missions, border security, disaster relief and maritime mission needs.
Sikorsky was unwilling to extend the validity of its commercial bid for the S-70. How does delay in acquisition affect life cycle costs and opportunity costs for India which has cancelled multiple projects for different reasons?
Sikorsky and its parent Lockheed Martin are centennial companies, with decades of international security cooperation experience. We understand the procurement of sophisticated ASuW/ASW platforms is a challenging process, subject to delays. We have and will continue to work with the government of India to minimise the impact of long procurement cycles to allow the acquisition of the best technology through the easiest and fastest path available. Despite the delay in the MRH contract award, Sikorsky and the US Navy have continued to partner to drive down the overall life cycle cost of the MH-60R, which has the lowest operating cost and highest availability of any ASW aircraft in its class.
How sure are you about the ability of domestic private firms to absorb transfer of technology when they have experience in only developing specific subsystems?
Hundreds of Lockheed Martin products and technologies have been successfully transferred and co-produced in India through enduring international partnerships. We will do our due diligence in order to assure the success of our programmes in India. We are confident that there are several private companies that can successfully become proficient with necessary technologies to build our products.
We look forward to building on the success of our partnerships with Tata on premiere programmes like the C-130J airlifter and S-92 helicopter, and developing new relationships with India.
Tata Advanced Systems makes aero structures for Sikorsky. Are there any new systems that you will be developing in India?
A decade ago, Sikorsky selected Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) in Hyderabad, India, as the manufacturing base for its global supply of cabin aero structures for the S-92 helicopter. Since production began in 2010, TASL has delivered 120 cabins to Sikorsky’s S-92 assembly plant in the United States. Today, production of more than 5,000 precision components that compose each S-92 cabin is 100 per cent indigenous to India — supplied by a joint venture company called Tata Sikorsky Aerospace Ltd., also located in Hyderabad. We look forward to expand our supplier base as we continue to strengthen and grow our relationships in India.
Mahindra Defence Systems and Lockheed Martin opened a C-130J simulator training centre in 2017. Will you be developing any other simulator training centre in India? How important is simulator training?
Currently, there are no active plans for Lockheed Martin to open an additional simulator training centre in India. However, we stand ready to expand training capability to support India’s future supply of C-130J aircraft. Technology is changing simulation by providing more realistic and immersive training experiences than ever before, matched to the training objective. We realise the importance of delivering simulation and training technology that helps our customers reach new heights in capability, reliability and efficiency across the board. Simulator training is also redefining mission readiness because simulation saves money and training saves lives. Lockheed Martin is committed to deliver affordable, reliable solutions and services that meet evolving operational demands for customers around the globe.