The American aerospace company Lockheed Martin is considered to be the world’s preeminent leader in fighter aircraft development, manufacturing, production and sustainment.
The American aerospace company Lockheed Martin is considered to be the world’s preeminent leader in fighter aircraft development, manufacturing, production and sustainment. “No other company has the experience in the next generation technologies, including but not limited to fighter aircraft, Lockheed Martin can offer to India. We designed, developed and produced the world’s first operational stealth aircraft and the world’s only two current operational 5th Generation fighters,” William L Blair, Vice President and Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin India, tells Financial Express Online.
Following are excerpts from an interaction of William L Blair with Huma Siddiqui
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Lockheed Martin has been present in India for more than three decades. What would you count as the company’s successes in India from a local manufacturing point of view?
India is a critical market for Lockheed Martin, and we have an established defence and aerospace footprint in the country that spans over 30 years. The cornerstone of our strategy rests on building and nurturing partnerships with the Indian industry, with whom we share technology and capability and co-produce and co-develop for India and from India for the World. It is important to recognize that the joint ventures and partners we have established over the last decade have generated value that has flowed down to Indian Tier 1/2/3 large, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups supporting a foundation for the defence and the aerospace ecosystem in India. We are fully committed to supporting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of self-reliance through supporting the growth of an indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem, advancing the aerospace and start-up ecosystem, and strengthening India’s strategic security and industrial capabilities.
We have been committed to building, trust, technology development and strategic collaboration with India. As shared previously, our joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. in Hyderabad for 10 years produces major aero-structure 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 is between Tata and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. This Joint Venture, established over 10 years ago, manufactures aerospace components for commercial helicopters and aircraft and has expanded to include aircraft engine components for aerospace industry companies as well. It is also fully integrated into the global supply chain. Our partnership with the Indian aerospace and defence ecosystem coupled with our understanding of user requirements, offers us the unique advantage of being able to rapidly and efficiently realize our blue-print for the F-21 offer.
The company has an extensive supplier network in India. What are you doing to strengthen collaboration and partnership with your suppliers here?
Lockheed Martin has a strong history of partnership with India and we are committed to supporting India’s vision of achieving greater self-reliance. For more than a decade, our Indian joint ventures have supported Make in India and growth in India’s aerospace and defence ecosystem including transport, fighter and rotary-wing aircraft for India’s requirements and export.
An excellent example is our joint venture Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Limited or TLMAL partnership. For 10 years, TLMAL has built critical components for the C-130J Super Hercules to include the tactical airlifter’s complete empennage unit. TLMAL is the sole supplier of the empennage for all C-130Js, to include military and commercial variants. Every C-130J built, delivered and flown truly represents the “Make in India” initiative. More than 115 empennages have been delivered to date.
We hope to strengthen and grow our commitment to India with the F-21 for India, from India. The F-21 delivers advanced, scalable capabilities to the Indian Air Force, provides unmatched opportunities for Indian industry and accelerates US-India cooperation on advanced technologies.
India’s acquisition of the MH-60R SEAHAWK, the world’s most advanced maritime helicopter, will also provide opportunities for the Indian industry to integrate into our global supply chain, following an offset requirement, they have on the program.
Currently, we have integrated more than 70 Indian suppliers feeding into our global supply chain. We are looking to build on the company’s existing foundation in India by identifying additional strategic partners from across the country, to include companies of all sizes — large, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups.
You have had success with the MH-60R in India. Can you update us on that deal?
India’s selection of the MH-60R “Romeo” multi-mission helicopter provides the Indian Navy with the most advanced anti-surface/anti-submarine warfare helicopter in operation today. The MH-60R offers the lowest risk and best value option because the aircraft is already in full production and globally supportable. The MH-60R provides a vital capability in the Indo-Pacific region and equips the Indian Navy with a tremendous capability that is ready for operations immediately upon delivery. We thank the government of India for its confidence in Sikorsky and look forward to supporting our partners in the Indian armed forces over the next 30 years.
As the world’s most advanced maritime security helicopter, the MH-60R has unmatched multi-mission capabilities: Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) / Anti-Surface (ASuW); Special Operations/Search & Rescue (SAR); Utility /Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP); and Command and Control (C2). These helicopters will be able to talk with India’s spacecraft, as well as other aircraft in their fleet. The aircraft’s fully integrated mission system also builds complete situational awareness and actionable knowledge, enabling target engagement both close-in and over-the-horizon. The helicopter also has unrivalled Anti-Submarine Warfare benefits that include nearly 1.5 times longer mission endurance time, larger search areas and greater threat detection capabilities. Along with higher availability rates, ease of maintenance activities and extremely less expensive operating costs, the MH-60R brings advanced and immediate advantages to the Indian Navy.
During President Trump’s India visit in February, the governments of India and the United States signed the Letter of Agreement for the MH-60R program. That letter triggered a governmental procurement process that resulted in the US Navy signing a contract with Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, for the helicopters. This contract signing occurred May 14 and effectively jumpstarts production of India’s MH-60Rs. We stand ready to support the government of the United States in accelerating the delivery of this urgently needed capability and training of the Indian Navy pilots that will operate the MH-60Rs.
The F-21 is Lockheed Martin’s candidate for the 114-fighter deal. What makes it a good bet for the IAF?
We are committed to strategic, long-term international defense partnerships with India and hope to strengthen and grow our relationship with India as part of an unprecedented F-21 fighter aircraft partnership for India, from India. The F-21 will be a game-changer for the Indian Air Force, Indian industry and India-US strategic ties. The F-21 is the best solution to meet the Indian Air Force’s needs given the platform’s enhanced capabilities, Make in India industrial opportunities and cost-effectiveness. The F-21 provides a landmark Make in India win and is the only offering that provides a pathway to exclusive production with future exports.
The F-21 aircraft has been designed keeping in mind, the unique needs of the Indian Air Force. The F-21 comes equipped with advanced APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, an Advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) System, Long-Range Infrared Search & Track (IRST) and Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs).
The APG-83 AESA radar has detection ranges nearly double that of previous mechanically scanned array radars and the ability to track and attack more targets with higher precision. The Long-Range Infrared Search & Track (IRST), enables pilots to detect threats without getting detected. Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs) allow the F-21 to carry 40 per cent more air-to-air weapons.
Additionally, the F-21 also comes with a Dorsal Fairing which enables increased growth capacity and indigenous systems integration in the future. The F-21 is also the only fighter in the world with both probe/drogue and boom aerial fueling capability. This, along with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs), delivers greater range penetration and loitering staying power to the Indian Air Force. Simply put, the F-21 goes further, faster, and stays longer than the competition – all at the most optimal Life Cycle Cost for the Indian Air Force with the longest service life of any competitor – 12,000 flight hours. Whether you’re talking about battlefields or budgets, the F-21 is the clear choice for India.
India’s integration into this robust fighter ecosystem via an F-21 selection would result in being at the epicentre of a $165B market, with future opportunities to expand its footprint through further developing indigenous capabilities and global supplier relationships.
The F-21 will be a game-changer for the Indian Air Force, Indian industry and India-US strategic ties.
What are the other projects that you have in India?
For over three decades, Lockheed Martin has been a committed member of the Indian aerospace and defence industry. We continue to contribute to the industry and look forward to further strengthening the foundations of the defence ecosystem to support the mission of self-reliance and ‘Make in India’. We have joined hands with Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers and Confederation of Indian Industries, two premium industry bodies and the driving force behind defence MSME and ‘Make in India’ for this year’s edition of Virtual Suppliers Conference and Exhibition in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The conference will anchor conversations around partnership opportunities that fuel ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ Abhiyaan, strengthen India-US defence industrial strategic ties, particularly ‘Make-in-India’ partnerships into the future.
Lockheed Martin has worked with Ashok Leyland to develop the next generation military vehicle for India and the global market. The vehicle has been field evaluated in various environmental conditions by the Indian customers and has been selected by some of the military users in India. Lockheed Martin’s engineering support and the cooperative working relationship with Ashok Leyland was instrumental for the success of development and production of indigenous equipment – another great example of the ‘Make in India’ concept.
What about Space Sector?
Additionally, Lockheed Martin Space has always had a keen interest in India, and following the recent announcements made by ISRO we continue to closely observe these recent development changes. In conjunction with our Lockheed Martin India team, we are now studying potential opportunities that will contribute towards a mutually beneficial outcome.
There has always been a high level of interest in investing in India Space for Lockheed Martin Space, the challenge we have, however, is deciding what is the right product or mission, when you consider how India Space has advanced quickly since the launch of Aryabhata in 1975 in the areas of satellite manufacturing, launch, space science and defensive space.