F-21 Multi-Role Fighter
Lockheed Martin unveiled the F-21 multi-role fighter jet at Asia's biggest air show Aero India-2019 on 21 February 2019. The F-21 is basicly a re-named version of the F-16IN Super Viper that was previously on offer to India. The F-21 will be manufactured locally under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship program 'Make in India'. Tata Advanced Systems would produce the F-21 in India6, with more emphasis on its industrial cooperation package than design advances.
Lockheed Martin assigned a new F-21 designation to the the F-16V Block 70/72 proposed Indian Air Force. Although the corporation renamed the "Indian" F-16 to F-21, most likely, this renaming is unofficial, intra-corporate. The renaming will also help Lockheed counter the tag that the F-16 operates with the Pakistani Air Force and is the biggest adversary to the Indian Air Force fighter jets. Officially, the designation F-21 belongs to Israeli fighters Kfir C.1, which received it from the US Department of Defense. This designation of aircraft received during the lease in 1985-1989, when portrayed in the Navy and the US Marine Corps Soviet MiG-23.
Lockheed Martin signed an agreement 21 June 2017 with Tata Advanced Systems to build fighter jets in India amid intense competition among foreign defence firms to snag business worth billions of dollars from the world's largest importer of arms. The agreement with the Indian firm affirmed the companies' intent to join hands to produce the F-16 Block 70 in India.
Lockheed Martin is competing with six other manufacturers to win an IAF contract to supply 114 fighters. Lockheed Martin competes with Boeing F / A-18 fighter (attack aircraft), Saab Gripen fighter, Dassault Aviations Rafale fighter, Eurofighter Eurofighter Typhoon fighter and Russian aircraft in an attempt to win a major military order for the Indian Air Force worth over 15 billion dollars.
The F-21 is said to feature numerous India-specific changes – inside and out – tailored to meet the Indian Air Force’s requirements. Innovative technologies derived from Lockheed Martin’s F-22 and F-35 – the world’s only two operational 5th Generation fighters – strengthen India’s path to an advanced airpower future.
Specifically configured for the Indian Air Force, the F-21 provides unmatched ‘Make in India’ opportunities and strengthens India’s path to an advanced airpower future. The F-21 addresses the Indian Air Force’s unique requirements and integrates India into the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem with the world’s pre-eminent defence company. Lockheed Martin and Tata would produce the F-21 in India, for India.
The F-21 is an unprecedented ‘Make in India’ opportunity - combining the strength of Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defence contractor, and Tata, India's premier industrial house, to deliver a win-win for the US and India. Lockheed hoped to strengthen and grow a relationship with India as part of an unprecedented F-21 fighter aircraft partnership for India, from India.
The F-21 provides unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes, including Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and suppliers throughout India, to establish new business relationships with Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders in the US and around the globe. In addition to creating thousands of new jobs for Indian industry, F-21 production in India supports thousands of US supplier jobs, including hundreds of US-based Lockheed Martin engineering, program management, sustainment and customer support positions.
Lockheed officials said that there were visible changes in the aircraft, including a new ‘spine’ that is designed to provide more space to get future systems into the jet. The change that has been done is likely to counter the argument that the F-16 had been rejected by the Air Force in the earlier Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft contest on the grounds that the air frame is not capable of integrating future capability expansions.
“It is a new plane, with a triple rail launcher and an Infra-Red Seeking Tracker (IRST). It is being offered only to India and no other nation,” said Randall L Howard, director, business development, Lockheed Martin. Vice President Vivek Lall described the F-21 as a “different animal.”
But the F-21 offered to the Indian Air Force has a large-area cockpit display and also conformal fuel tanks, which the F-16 has had since the 1990s. And there are no modifications to the F-21's engines and airframe or emphasis on stealth features. Such modifications would have added to costs and caused delays in development, negating the main advantage that the F-16 has offered for decades—affordability. But the absence of such upgrades would dis-advantage the F-21 in countering advanced air defences and fifth-generation aircraft being developed by China.
Lockheed Martin's offer to make India an F-16 production hub was tempting. However, it is unlikely that the company would wish to antagonize the US by scaling down of the operations in the South Carolina plant. The company's Fort Worth, Texas plant is being adapted to build the company's F-35 stealth fighters.
With an IAF MiG-21 Bison shooting down an F-16 beyond visual range in Pakistan, Lockheed Martin is poised to lose the leverage it had against its competitors. With confirmation that the old warhorse of the Indian Air Force, the MiG-21 Bison, shot down a Pakistani F-16 during hostilities 28 February 2019 between the two South Asian neighbours, there is speculation that the development could tank Lockheed Martin's multi-billion-dollar deal. "Indian Mig-21 not just brought down the PAF's F-16, it was a surgical strike on Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems. They should forget any future deal with the Indian Air Force," Syed Mohd Murtaza, a research scholar in the Academy of International Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia said.
Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur, a veteran pilot and additional director general of India's Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), commented on the achievement and said that it is the first time that a third-generation aircraft shot down a fly by wire modern aircraft armed with a much better weapons package and avionics suite. "Wow! FIRST TIME in the world — Mig-21 shoots down an F-16! Great job Indian Air Force!" Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur said, adding "Someone just asked me — if a MiG-21 has shot down an F-16, what happens to their bid for the IAF mega 114 fighter contract?"
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