4 minute readLockheed Martin hires India hand Vivek Lall
Raises game in Indian fighter contest

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Vivek Lall at a USIBC event.

In a move certain to dial up the tempo in their bid to build F-16 fighters for the Indian Air Force (IAF), the world’s largest defence company, Lockheed Martin, has appointed Dr. Vivek Lall to the position of Vice President, Strategy and Business Development (Global).

Lall was previously in a similar role at General Atomics, where he notably led the company’s efforts to pitch the Guardian/Predator line of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to the Indian Navy and IAF, as well as, the company’s newly-developed Electro Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) and Advanced Arrestor Gear (AAG) for the second Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-2) proposed by the Indian Navy.

Although Dr. Lall declined to comment on the move, StratPost understands that while his role and responsibilities will be global, his familiarity with Indian defence acquisition processes will be employed extensively by Lockheed Martin to boost its bid for a Make in India F-16 for the IAF.

The IAF is expected to begin the process for a tender for manufacturing fighter aircraft in India with the issue of a Request For Information (RFI) under the provisions for Strategic Partnerships under Chapter 07 of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). The tender has been widely expected to consider single-engine fighter aircraft, specifically, although Chapter 07 does not specify the number of engines in its listing for the manufacture of fighter aircraft via a strategic partnership with an Indian company. The order is estimated to be in numbers ranging from 100 to 150 aircraft.

Last year, Lockheed Martin had concluded a Letter of Intent with India’s Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) at the Paris Air Show to collaborate in the manufacture of F-16 Block 70 aircraft in India. This agreement, however, is contingent to separate selection of both the Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft and TASL as the Indian strategic partner by the defence ministry under the Chapter 07 process.

Lockheed Martin will compete with Sweden’s Saab, which is pitching its Gripen E fighter for production in India. Saab has an ‘unsigned’ arrangement with the Adani Group in India for the future production of the aircraft should they win the contest.

Dr. Lall also had a 14-year career with Boeing, where in led the company’s defence sales to India towards the end, overseeing the sale of the P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft and Harpoon missiles for the navy.

About Vivek Lall

Lall began his technical education at Canada’s Carlton University, where the dean told him to ‘Get a social life’ after he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. It appears he’d spent too much time working on circuits.

Undeterred, he then conducted research on single-engine blades for Canada’s National Aeronautical Establishment. With his father, an Indian diplomat, posted to Panama during Noriega’s time, he moved to Florida’s Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Like his old dean, his parents too hoped he would get social at Daytona Beach. Instead, he earned a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering, more interested in the ‘effects of acoustic oscillation on carbon particles’.

During his master’s work, he took up a summer job with Eastern Airlines. Ironically, the airline packed up soon after he joined.

People who’ve known him for a long time and have followed his career to Boeing in Seattle say he seemed to have ‘run out of gas’ when he moved from Florida to Wichita in Kansas, where he received a fellowship to do his PhD in aerospace engineering and modeling.

At Raytheon, also at Wichita, he worked on the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) Beechcraft T-6 Texan II and once had to sit, shivering, in a green King Air aircraft, holding up two mikes for acoustic profiling. He learned to fly in this period and also worked on various disciplines at the NASA Ames Research Center.

Before he finally joined Boeing on September 17, 1996, he attempted to ‘negotiate a salary’ but was gently reminded with which company, he, a neophyte, was attempting to do so.

He worked on computational fluid dynamics and air elasticity and loads and dynamics for the 757-300 aircraft. He moved from engineering to management and later, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Aircraft (BCA) Allan Mullaly, later president and CEO of Ford, put him on his seven-member Technical Excellence Team.

He also found time to serve as the President of the Mathematical Association of America

Lall was appointed Managing Director of BCA in India in 2003 and was part of the team responsible for the USD 11 billion deal to sell 68 aircraft to Air India in 2005, till then the single largest order in Indian aviation history and the largest BCA order that year.

He became Vice President of Boeing Defense, Space and Security in 2007, one of the few Boeing employees to have worked for both the commercial and defense units. During his time at the company, Boeing was contracted to supply eight P-8I long range maritime aircraft. An additional four aircraft have also been ordered by the Indian Navy.

When asked how he explained his productive run at Boeing and the company’s success in India, he once told this reporter, “The products speak for themselves. People like me can only screw it up.”

A version of this profile was published in 2011.

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