- Lockheed Martin sees immense opportunities in India
- Order beyond 12 aircraft expected from IAF
New Delhi: The Indian Air Force is soon to add six more C-130J Super Hercules aircraft in its fleet. A letter of Acceptance (LOA) submitted by the U.S. government is with the Ministry of Defence for clearance. Like the first six aircraft the additional six are also being acquired through foreign military sales (FMS) route from America.
The aircraft manufacturing American company Lockheed Martin is also hopeful of getting even more orders for this aircraft from India. In fact, Lockheed Martin is looking forward to manufacture India specific C-130J aircraft in India through a Hyderabad based joint venture called ‘Tata-Lockheed Martin Aero Structures Limited’ setup in 2009.
Roger Rose, Lockheed Martin's India CEO
Roger Rose the Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin India, in an exclusive interview to Bharat Defence Kavach, told that there will be some minor changes between the last six and the next six. The US government has now submitted a Letter of Acceptance on April 10th 2012. The LoA is on the desk at the Ministry of Defence for signature- he said. The previous LoA “case” is still opened for the first six. The contract runs through 2014.” The green signal to acquire the additional six aircraft could be given by the ministry once the discussion is over on offsets and some other issues.
Rose also told that he is hopeful of getting additional orders from India. “I have a feeling that the Indian Air Force will look at more C-130Js. I think they are happy with the first six. We think they’ll order another six, and perhaps more.” These special operations aircraft are aptly named as ‘veiled vipers’ by the IAF.
Expressing happiness over the on time delivery of the first six aircraft to IAF, Roger Rose said, “The C-130J contract was signed in 2008: we delivered all six to the US Air Force and the USAF delivered them all to the Indian Air Force in 2011. So, it took about three years. You might want to compare that with recent deliveries of other major military equipment.”
C-130J Super Hercules is a versatile aircraft which could be used for Strategic Forces, Border Security, Special Forces and other organization. Rose said that Lockheed Martin is awaiting two more Requests for Proposal (RFP) from India. One is for Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) for the Indian Navy and the other for the Coast Guard’s Medium Maritime Patrol (MMP) programme.
The bidding is likely for 18 aircraft - nine for the Navy and six (+three) for the Coast Guard. It is hoped that the RFP for these two programmes will be out by the end of this calendar year. Lockheed Martin will consider offering the Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) version of C-130J aircraft for the biddings. Other companies likely to participate in the bidding include Boeing, Dassault, EADS and SAAB.
Lockheed Martin and Tata had setup a joint venture in 2009 in Hyderabad. As per Government of India rules Indian company Tata have invested 74 percent whereas Lockheed Martin’s investment is 26 percent. This unit presently produces center wing boxes. Rose told that by next year this joint unit will produce every tail section on every new C-130J sold around the world to any country will be built in Hyderabad, India. He did not specify the exact money invested into the JV but told that there has been investment of ‘tens of millions dollars’ and the partner companies are expecting business worth $300-400 millions from this JV. In fact Lockheed Martin intends to use this production as offset credit.
Lockheed Martin is also keen to compete for the ageing Russian made AN-32 and British made Avro transport aircraft fleet replacement. AN-32 fleet is the work horse of the IAF.
On asking whether Lockheed Martin at some stage would think of manufacturing C-130J aircraft in India, Rose said, “We are going to see how the JV goes. I personally would like to build an India specific C-130J at the Tata facility in Hyderabad. I’d like to be able to compete for the AN 32 replacement, for the Avro replacement. I think there’s unlimited potential for that facility down there. So, the beauty of working with Tata is that they’re helping us drive price points down and if we can get the price point to continue to drop on the C-130J and we could get it down to a certain level and start competing in what’s historically been a twin-engine domain.”
Indian Meteorological Department is also considering a proposal to purchase one C-130J for cyclone study. The Lockheed Martin representatives have recently met and discussed with the officials of the concerned ministry on the purchase of one C-130J for weather study.
Speaking about the merits of having this aircraft for the Meteorological Department, Rose said, “There are so many different versions of the C-130J. It’s such a useful aircraft that people have modified it into many different formats. The US government uses a version called the WC-130J which is known as the “Weather Bird” or “Hurricane Hunter The discussion has been ongoing for a couple of years. We’ve met with the Ministry of Earth Science just recently so they’re pressing forward on it.”
The aircraft when purchased for the Meteorological Department is also likely to be operated by the IAF as no other department or agency has the skill to operate and maintain the aircraft. The aircraft is so sturdy that it can be flown through the middle of a cyclone to collect data related to the air pressure, temperature inside the eye of the cyclone, moisture, wind velocity etc. This helps to predict the direction and strength of the storm.