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

We have been supporting ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat in defence manufacturing for over a decade now

William L. Blair, Vice President & Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin IndiaThis has been an unusual year. How did Lockheed Martin adapt to new realities dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic?

Our priorities over the last year have included the health and safety of the employees, business continuity to meet customer needs, and resolve to support our nation and its allies including India during this crisis.

This included support through accelerated progress payments and orders to small and vulnerable businesses, and direct contribution to national Covid-19 relief effort via Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund. Through our India Innovation Growth Programme 2.0 and JVs in India, we have been engaging start-ups to provide in-kind support and technology to advance Covid-19 relief efforts and help raise awareness in local communities.

Additionally, we are also working on remote mentoring of our Women Apprentices working at the JVs and continue promoting STEM education amongst middle and high school students via virtual classes.


From Lockheed Martin’s perspective, how is Aero India 2021 different from its previous editions in terms of your exhibits and participation?

We are really excited to participate in Aero India 2021 and reiterate our commitment to supporting the growth of an indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem, advancing the aerospace and start-up ecosystem, and strengthening India’s strategic security and industrial capabilities. We see tremendous opportunity in India’s defence industry—both private and public. Aligned with our commitment to ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat and ‘Make in India’ initiatives, we look forward to further strengthening our partnerships across the country with companies of all sizes, including MSMEs.

Our focus at the show will be to exhibit our advanced security platforms and capabilities from across aeronautics, rotary and mission systems and missiles and fire control businesses.

We will be present at the show in strict accordance with COVID-19 protocols laid down by the ministry of defence and state government. The safety of our employees, customers and visitors is our topmost priority, and we stand committed to ensuring that all guidelines are followed at our booth.


Did the pandemic effect your ongoing programmes in India? What has been the progress on those?

Thus far, Covid-19 has had no impact on our India programmes except for the general inability to meet face-to-face with our various programme stakeholders. We have been utilising virtual meetings in lieu of in-person ones. In July 2020, we joined hands with Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), two premium industry bodies and the driving force behind defence MSME and ‘Make in India’ for the virtual edition of annual Suppliers Conference and Exhibition in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The five-day conference witnessed more than 400 delegates, over 200 companies of all sizes, total of 65 B2B meetings and 62 companies as exhibitors. The conference provided a platform to drive conversations around partnership opportunities that fuel ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan’, strengthen India-US defence industrial strategic ties, particularly ‘Make in India’ partnerships into the future. We stand committed to supporting the Indian armed forces to realise its modernisation vision.


What is the update on the MH-60R helicopters that are being procured by the Indian Navy? Will LM participate in the navy’s other helicopter programmes too?

We have partnered with India for more than three decades, working with the Indian armed forces, industry, and other key stakeholders. We have been committed to advance the strategic security and industrial capability of the country, and support government initiatives such as ‘Make in India’, Skills India and ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat among others.

Currently, we have one active programme for the Indian Navy—the MH-60R Helicopter programme. India’s selection of the MH-60R ‘Romeo’ multi-mission helicopter provides the Indian Navy with the most advanced anti-surface/anti-submarine warfare helicopter in operation today. The MH-60R offers the lowest risk and best value option because the aircraft is already in full production and globally supportable. The MH-60R provides a vital capability in the Indo-Pacific region and equips the Indian Navy with a tremendous capability that is ready for operations immediately upon delivery. The delivery of the first batch of MH-60R helicopters to the Indian Navy will commence by mid-year 2021.

Additionally, Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, responded to the request for Expression of Interest (EOI) for the India Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) programme. We look forward to providing this capability to the government of India and remain committed to fostering technology development, manufacturing and strategic collaboration in India while maintaining high-value, high-skill technical jobs in the US, abroad and across our supply base. We strongly feel globally structured programmes like this one create unique opportunities for knowledge-sharing and technology transfer that strengthen the industries of all involved.




Ahead of the DefExpo 2020, Lockheed Martin had expressed its intention of supporting India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) as well the Tejas Mk II. What is the update on?

In terms of Lockheed Martin’s support for AMCA, we would welcome that opportunity. Lockheed Martin has provided robust technical assistance with key allies across the globe with a demonstrated track record of success. Should the government of India inquire via an Expression of interest or other means to Lockheed Martin, we would look forward to responding. Certainly, the specifics of the technology assistance would need to be approved with the US government.

Public-private partnerships are a key part of building strategic, long-term international defence partnerships that benefit multiple stakeholders. Our F-21 proposal for the Indian Air Force (IAF) would be a key enabler of close collaboration on advanced fighter aircraft. The F-21, in concert with India’s Rafale and Tejas, will fill an operational gap and be a game-changer for the IAF, Indian industry, and India-US strategic ties.


Can you share the highlights of India Innovation and Growth Programme (IIGP)?

As a part of our larger commitment to support innovation in India, Lockheed Martin has sponsored and supported the India Innovation Growth Programme (IIGP) since 2007 in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology, the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum, University of Allahabad, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas.

The IIGP has pioneered an initiative that has supported more than 400 innovators and start-ups with in-depth technology commercialisation training and handholding support to commercialise and scale their ventures in India and across the world. To date, the revenue generated for Indian entrepreneurs through this programme is approaching USD 1 billion, and it is a flagship innovation programme in the Department of Science and Technology.


What is the update on MRFA? What kind of engagement do you have with the stakeholders in India?

We are committed to strategic, long-term international defence partnerships with India and hope to strengthen and grow our relationship with India as part of an unprecedented F-21 fighter aircraft partnership ‘For India, From India’.

We are confident that the F-21 is the best solution to meet or exceed the IAF’s capability needs, provide ‘Make in India’ industrial opportunities, and accelerate India-US cooperation on advanced technologies, including but not limited to fighter aircraft.

We are leveraging technologies across our entire fighter portfolio for the F-21 offering. An example of such technology integration across fighter aircraft is the advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array radar, which has many shared technologies derived from both the F-22, as well as the F-35. Compared to previous mechanically scanned array radars, the F-21s AESA radar has detection ranges nearly double that of legacy versions. Furthermore, we are offering an advanced cockpit on the F-21 with a Large Area Display. This avionics suite is leveraging both hardware and software from our 5th generation fighters and will greatly enhance pilots’ situational awareness. In terms of 4th to 5th generation technology insertion, we have our Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System which was developed and fielded on our F-16, also included in our F-21 offering, and has recently been fielded on the F-35 for which Lockheed Martin received the prestigious Collier Trophy. This game changing technology detects when the pilot(s) are disoriented or are at risk of losing control and automatically takes control of the aircraft. To-date, Auto-GCAS has saved 11 pilot lives.

Other significant capabilities of the F-21 include Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs) allowing the F-21 to carry 40 percent more air-to-air weapons than previous F-16 designs; Long-Range Infrared Search & Track (IRST), enabling pilots to passively detect threats; and a Dorsal Fairing enabling increased growth capacity and indigenous systems integration in the future.

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. The selection of the F-21 will place India at the epicentre of a USD165 billion market for future opportunities with possibilities for expansion of footprints, further development of indigenous capabilities and global supplier relationships. The F-21 aircraft also complements IAF’s existing fleet as its fits right in between the Tejas and Rafale to provide an operational gap-filler.

The F-21 is also the only fighter in the world capable of both probe/drogue and boom aerial fuelling capability. This, along with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs), delivers greater range penetration and loiter staying power to the IAF. Simply put, the F-21 goes further, faster, and stays longer than the competition—all at the most optimal Life Cycle Cost for the IAF. Whether you’re talking about battlefields or budgets, the F-21 is the clear choice for India.

At the 11th edition of DefExpo, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), to explore industrial opportunities for the F-21 programme. We are very excited about our MoU with BEL.

Since DefExpo, our team has been actively engaged with BEL. To-date, we have sent them over a dozen Request for Information (RFIs) to further understand their technical solutions as it relates to predominantly avionics systems in support of the F-21s advanced cockpit. We believe that 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.


Could you talk about your various partnerships in India and how LM visualises supporting Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat vision?

Lockheed Martin has been committed to technology development and strategic collaboration with India for more than three decades. We have been supporting ‘Make in India’ and ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat in defence manufacturing for over a decade now through our two JVs with Tata Advanced Systems Limited. The JVs and partners we have established over the last decade have generated value flowed down to Indian Tier 1/2/3 large, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups supporting a foundation for the defence and aerospace ecosystem in India.

Our joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd., Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Limited, in Hyderabad 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. To date, TLMAL has manufactured 130 C-130J empennages.

The facility also manufactures other aerostructure components like the centre wing box and recently, work has also begun to create a first of its kind autoclave capability for composites. TLMAL employs 500+ skilled team members and has been recognised globally for its job training programmes, including women’s apprenticeship programme.

Our other joint venture between Tata and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation was established over 10 years ago. This JV manufactures aerospace components for commercial helicopters and aircraft and has expanded to include aircraft engine components for aerospace industry companies as well. As of now, TSAL has delivered 154 S-92 cabins to date. It is also fully integrated into the global supply chain.

In April 2018, TLMAL increased the indigenisation of C-130 manufacturing by transitioning the production of approximately 2,000 (of 2300) previously imported empennage parts to Tata Sikorsky Aerospace Limited (TSAL), our other joint venture in India. These parts were previously manufactured by suppliers located outside of India.

Both the JVs have been instrumental in helping India achieve its goal of developing an aerospace and defence supplier ecosystem, promote indigenous manufacturing and participating in the global supply chain. Nearly 240 suppliers feed into these two joint ventures and have benefited from the vision of Lockheed Martin and Tata working together.


What innovation is happening in Lockheed Martin in terms of automation, intelligent equipment/platforms, and man-machine interface?

Lockheed Martin’s unmanned technologies can play a predominant role in modern-day warfare situations. Our portfolio of sophisticated unmanned systems are currently being used for a variety of life-saving military and commercial applications, and the demand for these capabilities is growing. Some of our solutions include the following:

MK39 Expendable Mobile ASW Training Target (EMATT): We designed and built the EMATT to replicate the sounds and movement of a diesel submarine. In deep or shallow water, this target can move in response to SONAR echoes to effectively training your ASW weapons without breaking the budget. To date, we have produced over 12,000 EMATTS for the US and international navies.

Condor™ eXtended Endurance & Payload (XEP): Developed in conjunction with the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL), Condor™ XEP is a long endurance, Group 1 unmanned aerial system (UAS) designed specifically for small tactical unit operations.

Indago: Indago is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) small unmanned aircraft system with a portable design that can be rapidly deployed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission. With the continued refinement and feedback from our customers, our latest offering, the Indago 3, features a low acoustic signature, ruggedised dependability, and rucksack portability. Indago has successfully deployed in support of global military operations with than 300 systems in operations.

Vector Hawk: Designed for support to small unit maritime operations, the Vector Hawk is a waterproof, collapsible fixed-wing UAV that can be launched by hand or an air-pressurised canister. It has approximately 50 minutes of endurance using rechargeable batteries and features a communications range of approximately 5km when using an antenna near the sea surface.  The Vector Hawk is capable of high-speed dash at speeds up to 70 knots.

Vehicle Control Station-international (VCSi): Built with our extensive experience, VCSi brings modular and extensible control to your unmanned system. VCSi is made in Canada, is commercially available and is ITAR-free. Its modular architecture allows you to purchase only the components you need for your system while a developer-friendly API and plug-in architecture allows you to easily add or extend functionality for your unique UAV control needs.



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