Blow to Pakistan? India could become next F-16 hub

Published: August 23, 2016


US defence giant Lockheed Martin’s offer to shift its entire F-16 production line to India will give it a strategic edge over Pakistan.

The proposal will give India partial control, along with the US, over which countries the fighter jets and spare parts are sold to. If the deal comes through, it will enable India to deny key supplies to Pakistan, which has relied on F-16s for aerial defence purposes over decades.

“Since India would house the only existing (F-16) production line, it would be able to deny Pakistan any further platforms and also influence Pakistan Air Force logistics,” said Pushan Das, who follows military modernisation at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

The strategic element is a key selling point as Lockheed pushes to win an order that may exceed 100 fighter jets, in a bid to replenish the Indian air force’s aging fleet — part of Modi’s $150 billion plan under his Make-in-India policy. About a third of India’s 650-aircraft fleet is over 40 years old and set to retire in the next decade.

The deal will further boost US-India defence ties at the expense of Pakistan. “What we are doing is putting India as the centre of the supply base,” Randall Howard, Lockheed Martin’s aeronautics business development director, said. “Today, there is no potential Pakistan sale.”  India and Pakistan have been arch rivals since partition in 1947. The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars over disputed territory and have few economic ties.

“The defence giant’s overtures to India will prompt Pakistan to look away from the US and more towards China and Russia for military hardware,” Najam Rafique, director at Islamabad’s Institute of Strategic Studies (ISSI), said. “Pakistan is diversifying its options,” he added.

Competition for India’s jet order is fierce. Lockheed Martin’s rivals such as Boeing Co and Saab AB are all offering to shift some production to India. Lockheed Martin, which is winding down F-16 production in the US, has successfully sold the jet for decades. Additionally, the proposed facility in India would provide much-needed, highly skilled jobs as Modi heads into several important state-level elections in 2017.

This article originally appeared on Bloomberg.

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Reader Comments (54)

  • Adnan Siddiqi
    Aug 23, 2016 - 11:09AM

    Ain’t never going to happen. US military establishment and defense manufacturers have never in the entire history have ever shifted entire production lines to other countries, not even in Great Britain or Israel who are the staunchest and closest strategic partners of USA.Recommend

  • Haramullah
    Aug 23, 2016 - 11:17AM

    Its economics stupid. All economic decisions always overtakes the political decision. Recommend

  • Rollin & Trollin
    Aug 23, 2016 - 12:08PM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:
    It could happen as F-16s are considered a standard workhorse now and not some cutting technology from the US standpoint.Recommend

  • omer
    Aug 23, 2016 - 12:09PM

    since when? it is always politics my friend, alwaysRecommend

  • piecemaker
    Aug 23, 2016 - 12:12PM

    In the long run Pakistan would benefit from it as it would not spend million’s of dollars on it and instead invest on building and improving its own fighter jets.Recommend

  • Sayan Chakraborty
    Aug 23, 2016 - 12:17PM

    I really feel sorry for pakistan, they are always ditched by americans and other western countries for a much much bigger Indian market share. Had pakistan put enough efforts to improve their economy, they would have had some sort of leverage over american decisions, but they wasted every opportunity, presented in front of them, by making more nuclear bombs and buying unnecessary and expensive fancy military stuffs, going out of the means. Unless pakistan improves its economy, it will always be ignored and ridiculed at the world stage.Recommend

  • Adnan Siddiqi
    Aug 23, 2016 - 12:43PM

    @Rollin & Trollin:

    Agreed and India is no dumping ground for aged and has been fighter jet. Besides, why would USA move production lines to India when it can secure an F-16 contract from India and build these aircraft in American factories employing their own workers?Recommend

  • Mayor
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:14PM

    They can move even the production of every nut and bolt of F-16 but IAF won’t touch it with a barge pole. Why would we purchase F-16 when it is already in use with Pakistan? Give us F-18 maybe we can think about it. I understand the game, now FDI in defense is 100% in India so USA will now manufacture some parts in India to cut down the costs. Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:16PM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:
    Most likely India will serve as the central base for exporting F16s to developing countries in its vicinity until it becomes truly “aged” and “has been” from even a developing country’s standpoint. The purpose of the deal is not so much for India to induct F16s in their own air force but rather to build upon such cooperative ventures.Recommend

  • Fact
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:22PM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:
    Are talking about the same F-16 pakistan has been begging on its knees to get? Though Lockheed Martin has offered F-16 Block 72, the latest version against Block 60 that pakistan is begging for. Recommend

  • Rahul
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:25PM

    “….and instead invest on building and improving its own fighter jets.”

    Given Pakistan’s manufacturing history that’s probably the worst thing that could happen to her. Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:26PM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:
    Another thing is which aircraft do you think a developing country would prefer to buy ? A Pakistan JF-17 or an Indian-US F16 at comparative/similar cost ? A no brainer.Recommend

  • FAZ
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:36PM

    Lets see
    33 years for Teja..
    With American support for manufacturing its fair to say this is a decade long plan?Recommend

  • Adnan Siddiqi
    Aug 23, 2016 - 1:48PM

    @Haji Atiya:

    A developing country doesn’t necessarily have to buy a new aircraft. F-16 are being offloaded from the inventories across USAF and European air forces and by the time F-35 comes online in 2020, hundreds of F-16s would go surplus and would be available for sale to a developing buyer for around $5 million as compared to the current price tag of $35 million for a Block 60.Recommend

  • Haramullah
    Aug 23, 2016 - 2:42PM

    From Pakistani point of view only.

    Of course, along with politics price sometime escalates.Recommend

  • Rizwan
    Aug 23, 2016 - 3:28PM

    Now it doesnt really matter for pakistan wether us is transferring its assembly line to india. Pakistan has already begun working on jf17 block 3, a capable fighter jet like f16 block 52+.
    And most important thing turkey has offered and pakistan has showen a deep intererst in turky next generation fighter program TXF. It will be a air superiority fighter like f22 and j21. So pakistan i. Next 10 years wont be needing any fighter jet imports.Recommend

  • Khalid
    Aug 23, 2016 - 4:21PM

    Who needs this crap F16s when we can make our own high quality fighters like jf17s and when have surface to air and air to air nuclear warheads. India buying F16s is like a blind man buying Rolex watch for himself i.e its a waste of money. With our piolets in ww2 planes and Indians in F16s we will still be the winner.Recommend

  • pakistani bloach
    Aug 23, 2016 - 4:28PM

    A true blessing in disguise for pakistan.pakistan need to move away from US and less US influence on pakistan, better the pakistan will be. this is one area where pakistan is moving forward to become self reliant. US friendship has destroyed countless countries so US moving away from pakistan is something we should clap for. Recommend

  • Menon
    Aug 23, 2016 - 4:43PM

    PM Modi at his best.

    Finally, the US figured out Pakistan’s treacheryRecommend

  • Menon
    Aug 23, 2016 - 4:46PM

    Russia is not selling Pakistan any modern weapons because India has partnerships with Russia to develop fifth generation fighter jets and Russia needs hard currency and Pakistan doesn’t have any hard currency.Recommend

  • Mr Obvious
    Aug 23, 2016 - 5:10PM

    Lockheed decided some time ago to close down the F-16 production line – the potential sale to India is the only viable option to keep production going on the F-16. Regardless of whether the India deal goes through (many experts don’t think it will) nobody will be getting anymore USA produced F-16’s once the production line is closed. Recommend

  • Xnain
    Aug 23, 2016 - 5:31PM

    Its a sales pitch. India has been acquiring platforms with ToT for like ages, only to end up handing over the production of the exporting country. Indian F-16s would come at the cost of Rafales, if LM ices the cake, so would Dassault.
    And aside from that Pakistan’s F-16s were upgraded at TAI and as long as Turkey keeps flying Falcons, Pakistan will always have options available. Recommend

  • Xnain
    Aug 23, 2016 - 5:32PM

    That fighter isn’t coming around anytime soon. Recommend

  • Zen
    Aug 23, 2016 - 8:26PM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:
    Never ever say never.Recommend

  • kamal
    Aug 23, 2016 - 8:44PM

    If that is not an act of war by the US on Pakistan, then I don’t know what is. At least it is a resounding slap on our cheeks. If that does not make us hate the US and do whatever to oppose and act against them, then nothing will. And we should have a clear statement going out to the USA-India nexus. You take way all the capacity of war from Pakistan then we can only respond with total and absolute mutual annihilation of India at the first serious outbreak of war. Recommend

  • genesis
    Aug 23, 2016 - 9:34PM

    any hard currency is nearer the truthRecommend

  • Shaz
    Aug 23, 2016 - 9:47PM

    We have yet to see what happens with this deal first in agreement to both parties & than materialized?Recommend

  • Sayan Chakraborty
    Aug 24, 2016 - 12:08AM

    @kamal Pakistan knows it quite well, the moment it uses its nuclear weapons on India, it will vanish from world map. India is too large to be destroyed by 100 odd nuclear bombs, while pakistan can be instantly turned into a radioactive crater by only couple of dozens of bombs.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Aug 24, 2016 - 12:29AM

    Setting up advanced F-16 production line in India would solve most of India’s shortfall in modern combat aircraft, while partnering with Israel for introduction of advanced electronic sub-systems in these planes! India already has produced a very advanced aircraft radar sure to bein installed in production aircraft, needing only procurement of advanced engines from America!
    As for act of war fantasy, Pakistan declared war on America more than a decade ago by openly supporting Afghan Taliban and Haqqani against American forces!Recommend

  • buga
    Aug 24, 2016 - 1:13AM

    @kamal: If that is not an act of war by the US on Pakistan, then I don’t know what is.
    When USA goes to war with Pakistan you will know it – won’t have to read about it on Express Tribune. Recommend

  • Desi
    Aug 24, 2016 - 1:26AM

    As i assess the situation, the gap between Pakistan & India is increasing in conventional weapons, due to that Pakistan have to depend more on nuclear weapons.

    If present situation continues and Pakistan is denied conventional weapond, then Pakistan have no other options then to depend on its nuclear arsenal againsts India, incase of Pakistans territorial integrety i threatend by Indian forces or of India manages to pentrate deep beyond Indo-Pak border.Recommend

  • Black Hawk
    Aug 24, 2016 - 1:39AM

    @kamal: Your nuclear threat won’t work any more son. Since you seem to be hiding under a rock, let me inform you that India has not only developed a nuclear ballistic missile defence program which is capable of protecting India from incoming nuclear missiles, it has also developed a second nuclear strike capability via nuclear submarine. So at any sign of Pakistan moving its nuclear arsenal to launch an attack, India is very much capable sending Pakistan back to the stone age.Recommend

  • Rex Major
    Aug 24, 2016 - 1:56AM

    @Khalid: as in the history – 10 Hindus to a Mussalman!Recommend

  • Sallu
    Aug 24, 2016 - 3:36AM

    Manufacturing F_16 in india is phase 1 of this long-term project. Next phase maybe more advanced jets. Also commercial airliners may be interested too as india has a huge apetite. Bombardiar is already manufacturing in India.Recommend

  • KDAero
    Aug 24, 2016 - 7:59AM

    F-16s with Pakistan are 3rd Geneartion fighters only. They are based on late 60s design and manufacturing concepts. Block 50 and later upgrades, which Pakistan does not have, may be considered as frontline aircraft. Pakistan can safely retire it current handful fleet and strengthen its air defense with Chinese and other models. Developing unmanned fleet can change the balance in its favor.
    India is not likely to settle for a F-16 factory or squadrons. Should they opt for F-22 or F-35 can put PAF in a difficult situation. Luckily, Indian bureaucracy is not technically that savvy.Recommend

  • observer
    Aug 24, 2016 - 9:30AM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:

    ” why would USA move production lines to India when it can secure an F-16 contract from India and build these aircraft in American factories employing their own workers?”

    Because, Lockheed Martin wants to focus on production lines for its newer fighter jets such as the F-35 and bombers. It wants to shut down the F-16 line in Texas as it ramps up production of F-35.Recommend

  • caushix
    Aug 24, 2016 - 10:09AM

    @pakistani bloach:
    Self reliant…You must have heard of this saying “Aasman se gire khajoor mein atke”… Your new friend China will take over your land and soon your army will be guarding their trade route in your own country like security gaurd..Recommend

  • Naeem
    Aug 24, 2016 - 12:18PM

    Pakistan has already experienced the Americans and now Indians can do that too.
    Please realise F16 is now becoming scrap and Pakistan may not need them by next 5 years or so. Americans are giving India 30 years old tech., which no one wants now. Moreover, with missle and drone tech developing, conventional fighter/bombers shall be too expansive. So India can enjoy with Americans for as long as Americans want it.Recommend

  • Malik
    Aug 24, 2016 - 12:27PM

    It’s a strategic decision for India.If buying 100 outdated fighters(even though it’s the latest block 70 of F16) and that could atleast operate for next 15 years but importantly bring down a fleet of more than 76 F16s of PAF in a few years and provide skilled workforce for India in future development(AMCA),its priceless.Imagine Pakistan struggled to buy eight F16s from US(700 million) earlier this year.What would it take them to replace entire F16 fleet.Its economic warfare.Anyways this is old news once the deal is signed the plant which location is finalised might start production in 2019.Bad news is Sukhoi will also start production of its T50(FGFA) in India by 2021 and Saab has offered it’s Gripen NG by 2019.Who knows this could also become F35 production line one day.Recommend

  • thakur
    Aug 24, 2016 - 2:51PM

    @Adnan Siddiqi:turkey used to manufacture F16s for the US due to high demand worldwide……india wont take this deal as there are better aircrafts available on the table and also Pakistan has over 4 decades of experience over this aircraft plus deployment of this aircraft would take around 3-8 years so by that time our BL52 will lose their edge and most of F16s would be retired or could be redundantRecommend

  • Komal S
    Aug 24, 2016 - 3:34PM

    @Desi: y.
    Hello Wake Up, thanks for the insight, except the whole world knows this alreadRecommend

  • Srinivasulu Mekala
    Aug 24, 2016 - 7:00PM

    Very few commentators know as to what exactly is going to happen with the F-16s proposed to be made in India. Do any one of you know that they will be used as UACV? In that role G-forces have little meaning, since no human being is inside. A few prototypes have already been flown. Now, in the light of this,start commenting sensibly.Recommend

  • FAZ
    Aug 24, 2016 - 11:48PM

    @Srinivasulu Mekala:
    Ok sir
    I correct my above assumption and add one more decade to completion of this mighty project..Recommend

  • Aleem
    Aug 25, 2016 - 3:21AM

    Read up a bit. You obviously are factually so wrong that I do not even know where to start with you.Recommend

  • Aleem
    Aug 25, 2016 - 3:24AM

    @Black Hawk:
    Keep on dreaming on the bollywood nonsense.

    Lets see India deploy this super duper ABM umbrella over even one of its cities in its entirety. You will go broke!

    India has no solution to Pakistan’s saturated BM launches. The more India looks at the ABM option, the greater the urgency for Pakistan to deploy both MIRV and SLBM capabilities (both actively in the works).

    So India’s options in the next decade or two will not be any better than what they are today.Recommend

  • Bharat
    Aug 25, 2016 - 7:12AM

    A “fraction of the price”? The quoted price for a single JF-17 unit is roughly $28 million USD. That’s over 50% MORE expensive than an early-block F-16C. When compared with the significantly more expensive late model F-16 Block 52/Block 60/F-16I variants, you’re still paying half the price, but getting a FAR less capable fighter. For that $28m price tag you get — no AESA radar, ability to engage only two targets simultaneously, a sub-1.0 thrust-to-weight ratio in a clean configuration…. what a bargain!

    Good luck PakistanRecommend

  • Bharat
    Aug 25, 2016 - 7:15AM


    You think you should do everything to oppose the USA?
    so Hiding Osama was not enough?Recommend

  • FAZ
    Aug 25, 2016 - 7:18AM

    Yea. We in Pakistan are running to Europe to save ourselves. Pakistani refugees numbers are the highest in numbers of all numbers of refugees ever!Recommend

  • Buzzkill
    Aug 25, 2016 - 9:07AM

    We all know who is going to go broke in the arms race between India & Pakistan, its a no brainer except for those who want to remain burried in the sand. India’s GDP is almost 10 times that of Pakistan which means that if India starts growing at 10% annually (as predicted by many analysts after passing of GST bill) it will create GDP the size of Pakistan every year. Good luck competing with that son!Recommend

  • Jerry
    Aug 25, 2016 - 9:11AM

    By the time the first F16 rolls out of Bhindian production line, Pakistan would be looking for new fighter Aircraft. It took 33 years for India to induct Tejas in its airforce. And they could only produce 6 of them. Keep having wet dreams. Good for you.Recommend

  • Titan
    Aug 25, 2016 - 9:14AM

    @Aleem: “The more India looks at the ABM option, the greater the urgency for Pakistan to deploy both MIRV and SLBM capabilities”

    And may I ask where will Pakistan get the money from to develop Those capabilities? Both options require billions of dollars & Pakistan could not even afford to pay $300 million for f-16s to the US. So get out of your wet fantasy & keep your feet on the ground buddy.Recommend

  • Buzzkill
    Aug 25, 2016 - 9:28AM

    @Aleem: We all know who is going to go broke in the arms race between India & Pakistan, its a no brainer except for those who want to remain burried in the sand. India’s GDP is almost 10 times that of Pakistan which means that if India starts growing at 10% annually (as predicted by many analysts after passing of GST bill) it will create GDP the size of Pakistan every year. Good luck competing with that sonRecommend

  • Anon
    Aug 25, 2016 - 10:51AM

    Pakistan is getting isolated in all areas. Other than becoming a Chinese colony there are no options.Recommend

  • Anjum
    Aug 25, 2016 - 2:32PM

    Set your house first and grow your GDP.Recommend

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