Interview | William L. Blair, Vice President & Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin India

The F-21 has been designed with the unique needs of the IAF in mind. The F-21 features numerous India-specific changes –inside and out –tailored to meet the IAF’s requirements

William L. Blair, Vice President & Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin IndiaWhen do you expect the contract for MH-60R to be signed? Once signed, what will be the timelines for delivery?

We stand ready to support India and the United States for a government-to-government procurement of 24 MH-60R helicopters as part of the Multi Role Helicopter programme. We are confident the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ is the right aircraft for India’s Navy as it provides a vital capability for the navy in the Indo-Pacific region.

The MH-60R is the world’s most advanced, proven multi-mission maritime helicopter with unmatched multi-mission capabilities: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW)/Anti-Surface (ASuW); Special Operations/Search & Rescue (SAR); Utility/Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP); and Command and Control (C2). The aircraft’s fully integrated mission system builds complete situational awareness and actionable knowledge, enabling target engagement both close-in and over-the-horizon. In addition, an MH-60R acquisition allows the Indian Navy to benefit from the ongoing support provided for over 300 MH-60Rs in operation around the world today.

We request you to kindly refer your questions on exact timelines to the Indian Navy.



What has been the response of the IAF on F-21? To what extent is it different from the F-16 Block 70 that was being offered earlier? How will it be ‘Made in India’?

We are committed to strategic, long-term international defence partnerships with India and hope to strengthen and grow our relationship as part of an unprecedented F-21 fighter aircraft partnership for India, from India. The F-21 is the best solution to meet the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) needs given the platform’s enhanced capabilities, ‘Make in India’ industrial opportunities and cost effectiveness.

An F-21 partnership integrates the Indian aerospace and defence industry into the world’s largest and most advanced fighter aircraft ecosystem. The F-21 provides a landmark ‘Make in India’ win and is the only offering that provides a pathway to exclusive production with future exports. Our offer provides unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes, including Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), DPSUs and suppliers throughout India, to establish new business relationships with Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders in the United States and around the world. The choice of the F21 will accelerate India-US cooperation on advanced technologies, including but not limited to fighter aircraft.

The F-21 has been designed with the unique needs of the IAF in mind. The F-21 features numerous India-specific changes –inside and out –tailored to meet the IAF’s requirements. F-21 systems/capabilities include:

  • Cockpit upgrades including a new Large Area Display (LAD)
  • Advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) System, developed uniquely for India
  • Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs), enabling the F-21 to carry 40 per cent more air-to-air weapons
  • Dorsal fairing for increased growth capacity and future indigenous systems integration
  • Aerial refueling probe. The F-21 is the only fighter in the world with both probe/drogue and boom aerial refueling capability.

The F-21 delivers an advanced single-engine, multi-role fighter at the most optimal Life Cycle Cost for the IAF with the longest service life of any competitor – 12,000 flight hours. Simply put, the F-21 goes further, faster, and stays longer than the competition.

How do you view the future of C-130J in India? Both the Indian Coast Guard and National Disaster Management Authority were interested in acquiring it. Has any conversation begun?

The C-130J represents a strong legacy of partnership between India and the United States. In early 2019, TLMAL delivered the 100th C-130J Super Hercules empennage from its manufacturing facility located near Hyderabad. The delivery milestone highlights the success of Lockheed Martin’s ‘Make in India’ partnership with Tata. This facility is the sole supplier of these components to Lockheed Martin and is an integral part of our global supply chain.

We delivered the 12th aircraft to the IAF in December 2019 and are honoured to continue to support the Indian armed forces in their tactical airlift missions. We stand ready to engage in conversations with the Indian Navy around our offerings, should there be any opportunity to do so.


Are you going to bring Javelin back on the table? In what way will the offer be different this time?

Javelin is the world’s most versatile one man-portable and platform-employed anti-tank and multi-target precision weapon system. Using fire-and-forget technology, the missile guides itself to the target without external controls – increasing the operator’s survivability. The weapon system can engage targets between 65 m and 4 km in most operational conditions – allowing for use in urban or mountainous areas.

The F-Model, which is the next advancement of Javelin, features a multi-purpose warhead that expands the weapon’s target set to include soft targets. This variant also boasts a modernised control actuation system. The F-Model is expected to enter production this year. Concurrently, we are developing the G-Model, which will improve upon the F-Model, while reducing cost and weight. This variant will also feature an uncooled infrared seeker, as well as modernised guidance electronics for enhanced performance and capacity for future improvements.

Additionally, the next-generation handheld launch unit, known as the Light Weight Command Launch Unit (LWCLU), will offer improved performance, while reducing size and weight. The LWCLU will also include much longer detection and identification ranges, increased battery life, full-screen video, as well as sharper images through image processing.


Lockheed Martin has a vast portfolio, but in India, only the Aeronautics part has easy recall. Are you going to correct that perception? Are you going to bring more technologies and systems to the Indian market?

Lockheed Martin has a wide span of capabilities across our portfolio and leveraging our expertise, capabilities and systems to support our Indian customers’ missions. We have been investing in local industry and manufacturing here since 2010, even in advance of the launch of ‘Make in India’ which has provided further impetus to our plans.

We have a joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems in Hyderabad which produces major aerostructure components for the C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft. This is the sole supplier of these components to Lockheed Martin and is an integral part of our global supply chain.

Our other joint venture in Hyderabad is between Tata and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. This joint venture manufactures components for the S-92 commercial helicopter and is also fully integrated into the global supply chain. Our partnership with the Indian aerospace and defence ecosystem coupled with our understanding of user requirements, offers us the unique advantage of rapidly and efficiently supporting the IAF with our the F-21 offering.


With reference to ‘Make in India’, what is your level of engagement with the Indian industry? What kind of eco-system have you created and to what extent is it part of your global supply chain?

We are committed to advancing partnerships, technology development and strategic collaboration with India. We have two state-of-the-art manufacturing joint ventures in Hyderabad, India with Tata Advanced Systems [Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Ltd (TLMAL); Tata Sikorsky Aerospace Ltd. (TSAL)]. This partnership with TASL also includes an on-the-job training element that supports the broader ‘Skills India’ initiative. In early 2019, TLMAL delivered the 100th C-130J Super Hercules empennage from its manufacturing facility located near Hyderabad. The delivery milestone highlights the success of Lockheed Martin’s ‘Make in India’ partnership with Tata.

Our joint venture in Hyderabad between Tata and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation manufactures components for the S-92 commercial helicopter. The facility is also fully integrated into the global supply chain and bears testimony to our contribution to the development of Indo-US defence industrial partnership. Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky partnership with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) on the S-92 programme has positively impacted India’s defence economy. Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky partnership with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) has positively impacted India’s defence economy, and the contributions of Hyderabad have helped the S-92 aircraft surpass more than 1.6 million flight hours, to date. Programmes like these create opportunities for knowledge-sharing and strategic technology and strengthen the industries of all involved.


Lockheed Martin has been engaged in capacity-building in India. Can you please elaborate on all the programmes that you have been undertaking in this area?

The India Innovation Growth Programme (IIGP) 2.0 is a unique tri-partite initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), government of India, Lockheed Martin and Tata Trusts. Supporting the Government of India’s missions of Start-up India and ‘Make in India’, IIGP 2.0 enhances the Indian innovation ecosystem by enabling innovators and entrepreneurs through the stages of ideation and innovation to develop technology-based solutions for tomorrow. Launched in 2007, IIGP has been one of India’s longest standing public-private partnerships.

Aimed at developing entrepreneurship in India, IIGP 2.0 is the only public-private partnership of its kind in India that spawns indigenous innovation by training budding innovators in world-class strategies, promoting and providing incubation and acceleration support, and assisting in business development.

The programme is designed to accelerate the launch of early-stage Indian technologies into the global marketplace.

The first 10 years of the programme focused on building an innovation pipeline and best practices in India by offering training and mentoring support to entrepreneurs.

Based on the learnings of implementing the programme for over a decade, the IIGP Version 2.0 was launched in 2017 to address specific gaps like:

  • Ability to transition university R&D to start-ups through a dedicated university challenge track
  • Lack of risk capital for high-technology based start-ups that have a longer gestation period
  • Lack of market opportunities for emerging start-ups

To date, we have successfully reached 400 business agreements through this program and generated almost USD1billion for the Indian economy.

Recent developments in the programme include:

University Challenge Partnerships

  • We are conducting nationwide University challenge in partnership with IITB
  • Support from Texas IC2 Institute, Stanford Business School and TiE foundation provided through Lockheed
  • Ten innovators each year taken to Silicon Valley as part of the programme
  • Ten most promising ideas provided additional mentoring at Texas IC2 Institute
  • To provide risk capital, the programme now offers ~USD40,000 of seed funding to selected start-ups. The funds are managed by CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad’s incubator.

Marketplace Access

  • We hold dedicated supplier summits for start-ups.
  • Over the last two years, we have organised two A&D start-up conferences where we have connected 25 of our Tier-1 suppliers with A&D start-ups in India.
  • The ministry of defence (MoD) launched their start-up programme – iDEX in 2018. IIGP partnered with iDEX in 2019 for its start-up conference where we invited over 40 iDEX nominated start-ups to participate in our supplier conference to touch upon a few successes and milestones of IIGP 2.0.
  • Over 10 University Challenge start-ups have launched start-ups in the last two years.
  • We signed MoUs with three IIGP 2.0 start-ups recently at the A&D Start-up Supplier Conference. We are working with them to identify opportunities to integrate them into our global supply chain.
  • One of the IIGP start-up has partnered with AirBus Ventures
  • One of the IIGP finalists recently raised over USD2million in funding
  • MoD released a list of 25 promising A&D start-ups during Aero India 2019, nine of which were IIGP start-ups.


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