F-16 fighter jets
F-16 fighter jetsReuters

Lockheed Martin, a leading American aerospace and advanced technologies company, signed an agreement with India's Tata Advanced Systems on Monday to produce F-16 fighter planes in India. With this move, the American firm is going ahead with its plan to shift its Fort Worth, Texas, plant to win billions of dollars worth of order from India's Ministry of Defence.

The announcement of the agreement was made at the Paris Airshow on June 19, where both the companies said that moving the production base to India would still retain jobs in the United States.

Indian Air Force requires hundreds of new aircraft to replace its Soviet-era fleet, however, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has said that the planes will only be replaced with the ones foreign suppliers make in India with a local partner. The Modi government is set on this policy to help build a domestic industrial base and cut outright imports of such aircraft. 

"F-16 production in India supports thousands of Lockheed Martin and F-16 supplier jobs in the U.S., creates new manufacturing jobs in India, and positions Indian industry at the center of the most extensive fighter aircraft supply ecosystem in the world," a joint statement by the firms said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra ModiReuters

"This unprecedented F-16 production partnership between the world's largest defence contractor and Indias premier industrial house provides India with the opportunity to produce, operate and export F-16 Block 70 aircraft, the newest and most advanced version of the world's most successful, combat-proven multi-role fighter," the statement added.

The announcement has come just days before PM Modi's first meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington. Their meeting is scheduled for June 26. 

India and the US have developed close defence ties in the recent years, with Washington emerging as one of the top three arms suppliers to India. The other two main arms suppliers to India are Russia and Israel.