Lockheed eyes more deals after India-US defence pact

Lockheed eyes more deals after India-US defence pact

New Delhi: US-based Lockheed Martin Corp says it will speed up delivery of six C-130J military planes to India and is negotiating for sale of six more in a deal potentially worth $1.1 billion, a senior official said.

Lockheed, one of the world’s largest defence companies, last year sold six C-130J military transport planes for about $1.1 billion, India’s biggest arms deal ever with the US.

“We will start delivering the planes from the first quarter of 2011 and work is speeding at the moment to meet deadlines," Jack Giese, a senior manager at Lockheed Martin, said on Thursday.

“The current agreement with the Indian Air Force for six C-130J aircraft has an option for another six and we are holding talks at the moment."

A defence pact agreed with the US last week allowing US inspectors to check all defence equipment sold to India periodically, has paved the way for companies like Lockheed to eye the growing Indian defence market.

India is one of the world’s biggest arms importers, and its government plans to spend more than $30 billion over the next five years to upgrade its largely Soviet-era arsenal to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China.

Lockheed is aiming for deals with India worth $15 billion in the next five years and is focusing on winning contracts for fighter aircraft, military transport aircraft, naval helicopters and missiles.

Lockheed and Boeing are two big US companies trying to enter the Indian market, but New Delhi’s reluctance to sign the defence pact, allowing US inspectors to examine defence equipment sold to other countries was delaying new deals.

“It is a landmark agreement and Lockheed is looking forward to a long-term partnership with India," Giese, who is visiting India, said referring to the pact signed last week.

Lockheed is also gearing up for field trials in August to win a $10.4 billion contract to supply 126 F-16 fighter aircraft to India.

Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet, France’s Dassault Rafale, Russia’s MiG-35, Sweden’s Saab JAS-39 Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon, produced by a consortium of European companies, are the other companies in the race.

“We are very excited and ready since April for the trials to start and show what the F-16 can do," Giese added.