Lockheed keen to boost India defence supply

Lockheed keen to boost India defence supply

New Delhi: Lockheed Martin Corp, the world’s biggest aerospace company, is keen to supply India with defence equipment including fighters and ships, in deals Indian defence sources say are potentially worth $20 billion.

“We are looking to supply frigates, air defence systems, helicopters. There is a huge horizon to expand," Roger Rose, chief executive of Lockheed’s Indian operations, said on Monday.

Several Indian defence officials said the various Lockheed deals under consideration could be worth at least $20 billion.

Lockheed was offering its Aegis naval air defence system to be fitted into seven ships that it hopes to supply to the Indian navy, Rose told Reuters in an interview.

The company is also bidding to supply 16 attack helicopters to the Indian Navy, Rose said.

“India is the first country outside the United States to be offered the MH-60R helicopters. It is a great submarine hunter and submarine killer," Rose said.

India is strengthening its naval presence to protect its maritime interest in the Indian Ocean and inducting dozens of new ships and fighter aircraft to counter other naval powers.

The US company will also buy equipment worth $300 million from Indian firms for six C-130J military planes that it is manufacturing for India, he said.

Lockheed last year sold six military transport planes to India for about $1 billion, which analysts said was a sign of growing ties between New Delhi and Washington and the reversal of India’s decades-old reliance on Soviet equipment.

“We are looking at all top Indian companies to source equipment for the C-130J planes, including HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)," Rose said in New Delhi.

The contracts are being issued to comply with India’s policy to manufacture 30% equipment locally on all defence deals with foreign companies, Rose said.

India is looking to spend more than $50 billion over the next five years to modernise its weapons systems after the 2008 Mumbai attacks revealed glaring loopholes in the security system.

New Delhi also began field trials last August to buy 126 fighter jets in a $10.4-billion deal to modernise the air force.

Lockheed’s F-16 is competing with 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, for the contract, one of the biggest in play.