Lockheed Martin to aggressively push F-16 for IAF order
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Lockheed Martin to aggressively push F-16 for IAF order

Monday, 29 January 2007, 06:00 Hrs
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New Delhi: US aerospace major Lockheed Martin is aggressively pitching its F-16 fighter for an Indian Air Force (IAF) order, terming it "the most successful international combat aircraft program in history", even as it will display an array of aircraft and equipment at the upcoming Aero India 2007 show.

The other aircraft showcased at the Feb 7-11 show at Bangalore will be the C-130J Super Hercules, the P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and the MH-60R maritime-dominance helicopter.

Also featured will be the Patriot PAC-3 missile defense system, the ship-mounted Littoral Combat Solution (LCS) system, and the MK-41 vertical launching system (VLS) for firing missiles at sea.

"Most of these products have potential to support the growing strategic military relationship between the India and the United States," a Lockheed Martin statement said.

The company's focus, however, is clearly on the F-16 as it eyes a soon-to-be-floated tender for 126 multi role combat aircraft (MRCA) to replace its ageing fleet of Russian-built MiG-21 jets.

The IAF had, in 2004, sent out a Request for Information (RFI) for four jets - the F-16, the Russian MiG-29M/M2, the French Mirage 2000-5, and the Swedish JAS-39 Grippen.

In addition, manufacturers of the US F-18, the French Rafaele and the four-nation European Typhoon have also sent in their offers.

In the run-up to the India-US civilian nuclear deal, it was widely believed that the choice would eventually be narrowed down to the F-16 and F-18, with the IAF order divided between the two jets. It is now believed that a final decision will be taken after the signing of the 123 Agreement that will take the nuclear deal forward.

What, however, could eventually tilt the balance is that the F-18, a Boeing product, is currently operated only by the US Navy, a defense analyst pointed out.

This apart, there is the question of performance, the analyst noted.

While the F-16 can fly at over twice the speed of sound - like the IAF's Sukhoi SU-30s - the maximum the F-18 can achieve is Mach 1.8.

In terms of operational radius, the US jets are almost equally matched, with the F-16 capable of 950 nautical miles and the F-18 945 nautical miles. The SU-30 has a 810 nautical mile radius.

Similar is the case with the operational ceiling, with both the F-16 and the F-18 achieving a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet. The SU-30 clearly scores on this parameter, as it can fly up to 57,000 feet.

However, when it comes to the edge of the envelope, the F-16 clearly scores as it can withstand G-forces of +9, against +7.5 of the F-18 and +8.5 of the SU-30. The ability to withstand G-forces is of critical importance in aerial combat when fighters have to execute extremely tight manoeuvres whether in an attacking or defensive mode.

According to the Lockheed Martin statement, the F-16 "is recognized as the most successful international combat aircraft program in history, with more than 4,300 deliveries accomplished to date to 24 nations.

"Current versions of the F-16 incorporate new technologies and are the most advanced fighter aircraft now available on the world market", the statement added.

To drive this home, a combat-ready F-16 from the US Air Force Pacific Air Force (PACAF) will perform daily flight demonstrations at Aero India to "demonstrate the high performance and agility that have become trademarks of the (jet)", the statement said.

There will also be a fully functional F-16 cockpit simulator at the show for private demonstrations to senior government and military personnel.

"It will feature the latest displays and sensor systems which are available today in advanced versions of the F-16 aircraft," the company statement said.

A C-130J will be on static display at the show.

"The C-130J is now regularly operating in high altitude and hot conditions in Southwest Asia and is proving its capabilities every day," it said.

"The J model builds on the basic C-130's long record of service and reliability. It has state-of-the-art features including a glass cockpit, updated propulsion system and a fully integrated digital architecture," it added.

Lockheed Martin has already submitted a proposal for the P-3C Orion in response to the Indian Navy's tender for a Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Anti-submarine Warfare (LRMRASW) aircraft.

Currently the backbone of the US Navy's Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force, the P-3C is being flown by 17 countries and "presents the most advanced and lowest risk approach to meet the near-term maritime surveillance requirements of the Indian Navy", the company statement said.

Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin employs approximately 130,000 people worldwide. The corporation reported 2005 sales of $38 billion.
Source: IANS
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