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We Are Open To Supporting India’s AMCA And Tejas Mk 2 Programmes: Vivek Lall, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics

The F-21 will meet all of India’s performance, capability and advanced technology requirements, and provide unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes and suppliers throughout India.

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Indian American Vivek Lall, Vice President, Strategy and Business Development, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, who is also part of the US Federal Aviation Advisory Committee, shares with BW Businessworld his ideas on building an aerospace ecosystem in India, the role that Lockheed Martin can play in bringing the scale of innovation, technology and capability of the next generation, among other things. Excerpts:

The idea that India will have robust aerospace clusters in a decade seems far-fetched. What is missing here?

India absolutely has the potential to become a major aerospace and defence player. We see tremendous strength and opportunity in India’s defense industry both private and public. We are actively looking for strategic Indian industry partners across the country Indian companies of all sizes, including micro, small & medium enterprises (MSMEs) and suppliers throughout India  to collaborate and explore security solutions unique to India. 

Our proposed partnerships with Indian industry on the F-21, Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) and other programs for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy will put India at the epicentre of the world’s largest defence ecosystem and deliver unmatched defence-industrial opportunities.

Just recently, the DRDO and Indian Navy achieved a major milestone with the successful arrested landing of the indigenously-developed LCA Navy Tejas Mk 1 aboard India’s INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier. We heartily congratulate India on this major achievement. 

Lockheed Martin’s unmanned technologies seem to be taking a giant leap. Will AI, quantum computing and advance machine’s autonomous capability redefine the sixth-gen smart fighter jets completely?

Lockheed Martin continues to leverage cutting-edge technologies across its portfolio, including investing in and expanding our AI and autonomy capabilities. AI adds value to almost all our products and systems, supporting both military and commercial customers. Lockheed Martin’s unmatched experience designing, developing, producing and sustaining the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft platforms positions us to play a key part in defining the future of fighter aircraft. 

The internal mechanism for such technology adoption in the country is not yet in place. What must GoI do to harness IoBT?

India is indeed a large IT power and it is poised to take the lead as the world’s leading technology innovator. One programme that has been preparing India for this leap is the India Innovation and Growth Program (IIGP), co-sponsored by Lockheed Martin in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology and Tata Trusts. Becoming a global leader in technological advancement does not happen overnight but India has made incredible progress in recent years.

The F-21 will meet all of India’s performance, capability and advanced technology requirements, and provide unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes and suppliers throughout India

For example, the first ten years of the IIGP focused on building an innovation pipeline and best practices in India. Since then, the ecosystem has matured, which led to Version 2.0 of IIGP launching in 2017 to ensure the continued success of these innovative startups. At Aero India 2019, the Ministry of Defence announced a list of 25 promising aerospace and defense startups. Nine of these were IIGP startups. Several of these startups have partnered with global industry leaders, demonstrating their value not only to those companies but to the world. 

Can ADA and DRDO leverage the exponential reach and expertise of Lockheed Martin to fast-track India’s quest for fifth-gen AMCA and Tejas Mk 2?

We are certainly open to supporting India’s AMCA and Tejas Mk 2 programmes should the Indian government ask us to do so. Our F-21 proposal for the Indian Air Force would be a key enabler of close collaboration on advanced fighter aircraft. The F-21, in concert with India’s Rafale and Tejas, will fill an operational gap and be a game-changer for the Indian Air Force, Indian industry, and India-US strategic ties.

What is the update on Lockheed Martin’s proposal for MMRCA 2 and the technical evaluation for F 21? 

The F-21 will meet all of India’s performance, capability and advanced technology requirements, and provide unmatched opportunities for Indian companies of all sizes and suppliers throughout India. The F-21 delivers an advanced single-engine, multi-role fighter at the most optimal life cycle cost for the Indian Air Force, with the longest service life of any competitor – 12,000 flight hours. An F-21 partnership integrates India into the world’s largest and most successful fighter aircraft ecosystem – a $165 billion market.

We designed, developed and produced the world’s first operational stealth aircraft and the world’s only two current operational fifth-gen fighters. 

The offset policy which is global standard for technology assimilation has failed to contribute any significant capability, especially in aerospace in India. What is the way out?

This is ultimately a question for Indian policymakers to decide, based on their unique requirements. Otherwise, Lockheed Martin has been diligently discharging its offset obligations in India since 2009. This has delivered extensive economic benefits through investment, skills training, transfer of technology and exports. Our successful joint ventures in India have been a key part of helping India achieve its goal of developing an aerospace and defence supplier ecosystem.

What can we expect from LM in 2020 for Indian aerospace?

We are committed to strategic, long-term international defence partnerships with India. We hope to strengthen and grow our relationship with India as part of an unprecedented F-21 fighter aircraft partnership “For India, From India.”