New Delhi: To bag one of the world's biggest military procurement deal of 114 jets worth around $ 18 billion, the US-based firm Lockheed Martin has offered to give India an exclusive deal. Lockheed Martin has said that its new offering is that the F-21 fighters which are also customised as per Indian requirements will not be sold to any other nation if the Indian Air Force (IAF) places the order of 114 jets with them. 

The Defence giant Lockheed Martin is trying to make this deal sound interesting for India, but it still has to face a stiff competition from other manufacturers based out of the US, Europe and Russia who are also pitching their latest fighter jet for this mega-deal.

In an interview to PTI, Vivek Lall, vice president of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin said the new combat jet is designed to operate across over 60 air force stations in India, and its key aspects include superior engine matrix, electronic warfare system and weapons carrying capacity.

"We will not sell this platform and the configuration to anyone in the world. It is a significant commitment by Lockheed Martin, and it shows the importance of India and the importance of the unique requirement India has," he said.

Lockheed Martin had recently, during the Aero India show in February, had unveiled the F-21 multi-role fighter, designed especially for India. The company has already announced that it will not only set up a state-of-the-art F-21 manufacturing facility along with the Tata Group but will also help India create an ecosystem for the overall growth of the country's defence manufacturing. The jet at that point of time was on the drawing board. 

Also read – Aero India 2019: Lockheed Martin wants to make F-21 in India

Despite announcing an attractive deal it won't be easy for the US manufacturer to crack the contract. Experts have already pointed out that the new offering F-21 shares many of its major features with the F-16V the company has sold to Bahrain, Greece, Slovakia, South Korea and Taiwan. Its rival and another US aerospace major Boeing during Aero India took a potshot at Lockheed Martin. Looking to mock Lockheed Martin's new F-21 aircraft, which many consider a renamed version of its F-16, Boeing tweeted, "Combat Proven, Future Ready, and still called the F/A-18 Super Hornet.   Catch them here at #AeroIndia2019."

Another roadblock ahead of the company in selling their fighter jet to India is that one of their best-selling jets F-16 operates with the Pakistani Air Force and is the biggest adversary to the Indian Air Force fighter jets. However, changing the name and making India specific jets can change the game for them. 

Some experts also pointed out Lockheed Martin will also have to face difficulties in justifying how IAF's vintage Russian jet smoked their F-16 sold to Pakistan. A recent aerial dog fight between IAF wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman in his ancient MiG-21 bison against PAF F-16 will not be forgotten for many years.    

On observation that the F-21 is similar to Lockheed's F 16 Block 70 combat jet, Lall said such a view is unfair as there have been significant differences between the two platforms. F-21 is different in terms of various aspects including its airframe, weapons capability, engine matrix and availability of engine options.

"As for example, you are now looking at 12,000 hours of service life airframe in F-21 versus 8,000 hours previously (F 16 Block 70). The additional 40 per cent weapons carrying capability is new in F-21 which was not there in F 16 Block 70. The electronic warfare system is uniquely developed for India," he added.

"Looking from a distance may make it look similar to F 16 Block 70, but it is different," he added.

Besides having a traditional boom-delivered refuelling facility, the F 21 also has an extendable hose-and-drogue refuelling probe.

"This is the only fighter in the world which has both the capabilities," said Lall, adding the cockpit also has a new large area display.

"It is a modern cockpit and has a significant piece of ability to synthesise information. These are unique capabilities that we are not offering to other countries in the world," said the Lockheed executive.

The jet has a Long-Range Infrared Search and Track (IRST), enabling pilots to detect threats with precision and Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs) allowing it to carry 40 per cent more air-to-air weapons.

This is the second time Lockheed Martin is trying to compete for an Indian Air Force order. The company had earlier fielded the F-16 Block 70 for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft requirement put out by the Indian Air Force.