Washington: The F-21 multi-role fighter jet will give India a ‘significant edge’ with greater standoff capability, American defence giant Lockheed Martin has said and claimed that producing it locally will also strengthen the country’s integration into the world-wide network of advanced fighter aircraft technology.
Lockheed Martin during the Aero India show in Bangalore in February unveiled the F-21 multi-role fighter jet for India, to be produced locally.
The Maryland-based company, which had earlier offered its F-16 fighter jets to India, said the F-21 addresses the IAF’s unique requirements and integrates India into the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem.
Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems would produce the F-21 in India.
Vivek Lall, vice president for strategy and business development, Lockheed, said: “While it is inappropriate for us to compare specific capabilities, the F-21 will give India a significant edge with greater standoff capability, greater staying power with less fuel burn, and network data linking capabilities across all platforms.”
“The tactics India employs with the F-21 will also be different – uniquely developed by the Indian Air Force,” he said. “The F-21 will meet all of India’s performance, capability and advanced technology requirements – the same requirements all other 4th generation competitors are offering. As we pursue cutting-edge technologies for the F-21, some capabilities may be evaluated as discrete, integrated functions.”
It has an Advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) System, developed uniquely for India, that provides enhanced survivability against ground and air threats; Long-Range Infrared Search and Track (IRST), enabling pilots to detect threats without detecting them and Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs) allowing the F-21 to carry 40 per cent more air-to-air weapons.
Refuting reports that the F-21 fighter jet is rebranding of the F-16, Lall said that while aircraft structures may look familiar, the differences become clear when looking at the unique capabilities of the F-21.
The F-21 also demonstrates Lockheed Martin’s commitment to India: to deliver an advanced, scalable fighter to the Indian Air Force that also provides unrivaled industrial partnership opportunities, he asserted.
Responding to a question on recent controversy surrounding F-16 aircraft, Lall said it is not for Lockheed to comment on any such matters, but the company is confident the F-21 is the best solution to meet the Indian Air Force’s capability needs, provide ‘Make in India’ industrial opportunities and accelerate India-US cooperation on advanced technologies, including but not limited to fighter aircraft.