Will Lockheed Martin, which has offered to shift the production line of the F-16 fighter aircraft to India transfer four crucial technologies which have been denied to South Korea, a close US ally.
In exchange for a large order of F-16 fighter aircraft from the Indian Air Force(IAF), Lockheed Martin is offering to close its only assembly line in Fort Worth, USA and relocate it to India.
The question however is will the Pentagon allow the transfer four critical technologies- integrated systems for active electronically scanned array radar, electro-optical targeting pod, infrared search and track and radio frequency jammer to India which US has denied to South Korea for the KF-X program. South Korea is building its own fighter plane closely modelled along the F-16 with a number of crucial inputs coming from Lockheed Martin.
These technologies form an important component of the F-16V fighter jet, the latest evolution of the world’s most successful war plane that has been offered to New Delhi.
US had denied parting with the four technologies citing national technology protection policy. “The US continues to support the Republic of Korea’s defense programs and priorities through the transfer of many of our most sensitive defense technologies. We seek to support the KF-X indigenous fighter program to the maximum extent possible,” department spokesperson Katina Adams had said in December last year.
Lockheed Martin is in discussion with the US government and the government of India in regard to the shifting of the F-16 assembly line to India. The company is also talking to its Indian industry partners about the opportunity.
"Lockheed Martin is offering India the exclusive opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft, the world’s most advanced fourth-generation fighter aircraft,” Lockheed Martin spokesperson John Losinger was quoted as saying by Wfaa8 Thursday.
“Details about this potential partnership will be determined in conjunction with the respective governments, Lockheed Martin, and Indian industry. Production of the F-16 will continue in Fort Worth with current contract work through late 2017,” Losinger said.
Lockheed Martin has offered the aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF) as the primary customer and opened the doors for export from the Indian facility.
This wouldn’t be the first time the F-16 was made abroad. During the 1970s a joint US/European program produced F-16s for four NATO countries from three assembly lines in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Fort Worth. Assembly lines in Turkey and Korea also produced F-16s under license for their own air forces.