Exclusive: Lockheed says U.S. may take 'fresh look' at its India F-16 plan

Thu Feb 9, 2017 11:04am EST
 
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By Sanjeev Miglani and Mike Stone

NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin (LMT.N: Quote) wants to push ahead with plans to move production of its F-16 combat jets to India, but understands President Donald Trump's administration may want to take a "fresh look" at the proposal.

With no more orders for the F-16 from the Pentagon, Lockheed plans to use its Fort Worth, Texas plant instead to produce the fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that the United States Air Force is transitioning to.

Lockheed would switch F-16 production to India, as long as the Indian government agrees to order hundreds of the planes that its air force desperately needs.

Trump has criticized U.S. companies that have moved manufacturing overseas and which then sell their products back to the U.S. In his first few weeks in office, he has pushed companies, from automakers to pharmaceutical firms, to produce more in the United States.

In Lockheed's case, however, the plan is to build the F-16 to equip the Indian Air Force, and not sell them back into the United States.

Lockheed said it has been talking to Trump's transition and governance teams as well as the U.S. Congress for several months on its plans, including the proposed sale of F-16 planes to India, a spokesman told Reuters in Washington.

"We've briefed the Administration on the current proposal, which was supported by the Obama Administration as part of a broader cooperative dialogue with the Government of India," the spokesman said.

"We understand that the Trump Administration will want to take a fresh look at some of these programs, and we stand prepared to support that effort to ensure that any deal of this importance is properly aligned with U.S. policy priorities."   Continued...

 
A U.S. Lockheed Martin F-16 flies during an air display at the Farnborough International Air Show, Hampshire, July 19, 2004. REUTERS/Toby Melville