Future customers of F-16 fighter jets will get them shipped from the USA, a Lockheed Martin executive said implying an end to licence-manufacture of the aircraft in foreign countries.
Rick Groesch, Lockheed’s regional vice president, was quoted as saying at the IDEX 2017 show in Abu Dhabi yesterday, "The next customer that we sell F-16 to we will build them in the US."
Lockheed Martin has in the past assembled F-16s in Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands in the past. However with the arrival of the Trump administration with its focus on keeping American jobs at home, US companies have to rework their export strategies.
The policy shift puts a big questions mark over Lockheed Martin’s and also Boeing’s pitch to manufacture the F-16 and the F/A-18 aircraft in India under the ‘Make in India’ Program. Both companies are in contention to manufacture single engine (F-16) and twin engine (F/A-18) jets in India to meet Indian Air Force requirements as well as to export them from India.
While Lockheed has offered to shift its F-16 plant to India and use up the space to meet growing demand for the F-35, Boeing has offered to set up modern plant in India provided it gets an order for around 100 aircraft.
Lockheed Martin is eyeing to upgrade F-16 aircraft with Middle Eastern customers such as UAE and Egypt besides completing the supply of 5-6 planes out of a 30 aircraft order meant for Iraq. The US based firm is also in the running to supply some 19 new F-16s to Bahrain in addition to upgrading a quarter century old 20 Block 40 aircraft.
Lockheed is making presentations in the Middle East and Asia to evince interest in the latest F-16 version known as the F-16V which comes with advancements in radar, communications and weapons systems over earlier versions of the fighter jet.