New Delhi: With Ukraine getting Western tanks like the German Leopard, the British Challenger, and the American Abrams, there is considerable talk about the transfer of fighter planes like the F-16. Lockheed Martin has already announced it is going to increase production of its F-16 fighters so that any requirement in the coming weeks or months for the warplane can be met. Production of the F-16 at the Lockheed Martin plant in Greenville, South Carolina, is going to be increased, Lockheed Martin has said.
This could boost the Indian defence manufacturing industry, particularly the private sector. For, the wings of virtually every F-16 made are produced by the Tatas in its plant in Hyderabad, India. With Lockheed Martin making more F-16s, the demand for Indian-made wings will go up automatically. This is a bonus for defence manufacturing in India, high-level sources said. And, of course, for the Tatas.
So far, the United States has not agreed to the supply of F-16s, though the Ukrainians believe it will eventually happen, as with the tanks. But they can still reach Ukraine. There are several NATO countries with the fighter and the Dutch, who are beginning to replace the F-16 with the F-35 have already indicated they are thinking about it. But they have to get permission from the United States for it. The other option is for a NATO country like Poland which still has Soviet-designed and made MiG-29s could send these planes to Ukraine and the USA would provide F-16s to the Polish Air Force.
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Either way, more F-16s are necessary and they are already being manufactured. And the manufacture of more fighters means more wings for them. An F-16 fighter is a high-value weapon system. Just the plane alone (the weapons have a separate cost)is expensive– the relatively recent version of the F-16 (the E and the F variants) goes for $25 to $35 million and even more. The wings, of course, are a less expensive part of the plane, unlike the engine, but a large order could be a substantial benefit for indigenous manufacturing.