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The F-21 will be a game-changer for the Indian Air Force and India-US strategic ties: VP Lockheed Martin Aeronautics 

Financial Express , May 15, 2019

As US India defence relationship continues to grow, Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defence company, has made an offer to India. It has designated F21 fighter jet for the 114 fighter aircraft requirement. Dr Vivek Lall, globally renowned aerospace scientist, unveiled the F21 at Aero India in February. Following are excerpts from an interview of Dr Vivek Lall, Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Lockheed Martin, by Financial Express Online’s Huma Siddiqui.

What are some unique capabilities of the F-21 platform? What is different between F-16 and F-21?

The F-21 features numerous India-specific changes – inside and out – tailored to meet the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) requirements. F-21 systems/capabilities that are not part of the F-16 Block 70 baseline configuration 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 percent more air-to air weapons; Dorsal fairing for increased growth capacity and future indigenous systems integration; Aerial refuelling probe. The F-21 is the only fighter in the world with both probe/drogue and boom aerial fuelling 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.

Please describe the Make in India aspects of your proposal.

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 production in India, an F-21 partnership integrates Indian industry into the world’s largest and most successful fighter aircraft ecosystem – a $165 billion market. Approval by the US Government for such an important strategic move signals firm movement forward and maturity in US-India relations.

Last year, the company conducted a suppliers’ conference in Bangalore. What were the contours of this and what were the outcomes?

The 2018 conference brought 18 of Lockheed Martin’s Tier One suppliers together with Indian industry to discuss capabilities and future partnerships to support the Indian Government’s Make in India goals. The Tier One suppliers that attended participate in every major avionics and system on the F-16. More than 60 Indian companies attended last year, along with our Tier One suppliers, and the participating companies have continued to advance many of these discussions. We are very excited by the incredible potential we see in the Indian industrial landscape.

What are the R&D initiatives of LM in India and does that give you a competitive advantage for F-21? Can you give an example of success with your R&D initiatives in India?

The company has been a strong supporter of Government of India initiatives. As a part of our larger commitment to support Indian innovation, 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, 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 commercialization training and handholding support to commercialize and scale their ventures in India and across the world. To date, the revenue generated for Indian entrepreneurs through this programme is approaching $1 billion, and it is a flagship innovation program in the Department of Science and Technology.

We believe the F-21 will significantly boost India’s innovation ecosystem as continuous innovation is a fundamental part of successful fighter aircraft programs.

Lockheed Martin has a large portfolio of businesses. How are you leveraging the breadth of your businesses to enhance the F-21 offering?

Indeed, Lockheed Martin has a wide span of capabilities across our four business units, Aeronautics, Rotary and Mission Systems, Missiles and Fire Control, and Space, and given our commitment to India, we bring to bear all of them to supporting 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, which manufactures components for the S92 commercial helicopter and is also fully integrated into the global supply chain. Our understanding and engagement with the Indian aerospace and defence ecosystem, and of user requirements, offers us the critical advantage of being able to rapidly and efficiently realize our blueprint for the F-21 offer.

The company is a pioneer in Space with Mars missions. Can you describe the recent accomplishments in Space which will help in understanding the breadth of technological prowess so that they can relate to technical innovation on F-21 and future derivatives of that platform?

Our Space business area continues to support our customers’ vital missions to protect their citizens, enable global commerce, and advance scientific discovery. Some of our work for scientific discovery includes the Near Infrared Camera or NIRCam on the James Webb Space Telescope, the more powerful successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and the atomic particle accelerators that simulate space conditions, allowing scientists to check on equipment at intervals throughout the acceleration process. 2018 was also a milestone year for our deep space exploration programs. NASA’s Lockheed Martin–built OSIRIS-REx spacecraft (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification-Regolith Explorer) began orbiting the asteroid potentially giving scientists insight into the early formation of our solar system and the origin of life on earth.

You may recall in November, NASA’s InSight lander successfully touching down on the surface of Mars. This was the fourth time a Lockheed Martin-built lander successfully touched down on the Red Planet. Last year, the US Air Force selected us to build next-generation Global Positioning System III (GPS III) satellites and entrusted the company as the prime contractor for a new missile warning satellite system known as Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next Gen OPIR). As we look to the future, we can see tremendous need for the products and systems Lockheed Martin provides in every domain – on land, at sea, in the air, in space, and in the cyber realm.