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.