F-21 fighter jet, which will be made in India if the US company wins a contract

Lucknow: Visitors to the Defence Expo will be able to experience the working of an aircraft competing to join the Indian Air Force.

A model and simulation set-up of the F-21 fighter jet, which is specifically configured for the IAF, is on display for visitors at the DefExpo 2020. A product from US defence major Lockheed Martin, it will be manufactured locally under the Centre’s ‘Make in India’ initiative if chosen by the IAF for its fleet. The US defence firm will build the plane in collaboration with TATA Advanced Systems.

All major fighter aircraft manufacturers including Sukhoi and MiG from Russia, Boeing from US, Eurofighter consortium from Europe and SAAB from Sweden are competing to supply 114 jets to the IAF.

IAF had invited requests for information early last year for the project, which is under the defence ministry’s ‘strategic partnership’ model.

The deal, valued at Rs 1.5 lakh crore, is expected to be the biggest ever in terms of the number of aircraft and the amount of money involved. IAF is carrying out trials of all the participants to select the multi-role combat aircraft.

The process is expected to be completed over the next few months.

India needs to fulfil the shortage of fighter planes in the IAF, which is looking to replace the MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-27 with more advanced jets.

Lockheed Martin had unveiled the F-21 jet at Aero India in 2019 last year.

Meanwhile, vice-president and chief executive of Lockheed Martin India William (Bill) Blair said that the company aims to identify additional strategic partners including MSMEs and startups during the expo.