Lockheed Martin inks pact with BEL to explore opportunities in F-21 fighter jet programme

US defence giant Lockheed Martin on Friday inked an agreement with the state-run Bharat Electronics Limited to explore opportunities in the F-21 fighter jet programme. Lockheed Martin has exclusively offered its F-21 military aircraft to India, with an eye to bag the Indian Air Force’s USD 18 billion dollar deal to procure 114 jets.

“Lockheed Martin signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Defence PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to explore industrial opportunities in the F-21 programme today at DefExpo 2020,” the company said in a statement.

Lockheed Martin said it is strengthening and growing its partnerships with the Indian industry to support the company’s F-21 proposal for the IAF.

“We are excited to begin exploring F-21 opportunities with BEL, one of India’s leading aerospace and defence companies,” said Dr Vivek Lall, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

He said if India goes for F-21, then it will be plugging into the world’s largest fighter plane ecosystem.

“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,” Lall said.

In April last year, the IAF issued an RFI (Request for Information) or initial tender to acquire 114 jets at a cost of around USD 18 billion, which is billed as one of the world’s biggest military procurement in recent years.

The top contenders for the deal include Lockheed’s F-21, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft MiG 35 and Saab’s Gripen.

“We are happy to collaborate with Lockheed Martin which is a global major in the aerospace sector. We are eagerly looking forward to cash in on this co-operation to address domestic and international market needs in this sector,” said Anandi Ramalingam, Director (Marketing), BEL.

Lockheed Martin has projected F-21 as the ideal aircraft to address the IAF’s capability needs and deliver unparalleled industrial opportunities in India.

It said the single-engine F-jet will have the most optimal life cycle cost for the Indian Air Force, besides ensuring longest service life of 12,000 flight hours.

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