Bengaluru: Betting big on India and hoping to bag the multi-billion-dollar contract for 114 fighter jets, American aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin Wednesday unveiled the F-21 multi-role fighter, designed especially for India.
Lockheed Martin, which had been hard-selling the F-16 Block 70 so far, said it would now offer the F-21 to the Indian Air Force.
“It is neither a paper aircraft nor old wine in new bottle,” Vivek Lall, vice-president, Aeronautics Strategy and Business Development at Lockheed Martin told ThePrint, responding a question on whether the aircraft was just a renamed F-16.
The F-21 is still on the drawing board, leading to concerns that it was pretty much a ‘paper’ aircraft.
“It is unique inside and out,” Lall insisted.
Randall L. Howard, director of Lockheed’s Integrated Fighter Group Aeronautics Strategy and Business Development, said there was a visual difference too between the F-16 and the F-21.
Speaking to ThePrint, Howard explained that the dorsal section, triple launcher and the probe-drogue system were unique to the F-21. He added that the cockpit of the F-21 was larger, and the plane had undergone structural changes for all the new additions.
Lockheed Martin has a tie up with Tata group for the F-16 programme, which will continue for the F-21 project also. Howard said since both aircraft belong to the same family, they will share commonalities of supply base.
Objections to the F-16
The F-16, one of the highest-selling fighter planes in the world, was to compete with six other aircraft for the upcoming contract for 114 fighter jets. But it had several factors going against it.
Experts, including those from the IAF, had argued that the F-16 had an older airframe. Also, the F-16 is already in use in Pakistan, and many argued that India could not have the same aircraft since the Pakistan Air Force knows its limitations and advantages, even though Lockheed Martin was offering a different variant, the Block 70.