Fort Worth, Texas: With the time for unveiling the RFPs, issued for the supply of 126 medium range multi role combat aircraft (MMRCA) to the Indian Air Force nearing, US defence contractor, Lockheed Martin, has stepped up the campaign for its fighter candidate, the F-16 Fighting Falcon. It announced Wednesday that as part of its submission for the IAF MMRCA programme it would make available an upgraded version of its F-16, freshly designated F-16IN, which would have 'super cruise' capability and also deploy top-of-the-line Active Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radars.
'Super cruise' capability, so far, is only available with 5th generation fighters, such as the American F-22 Raptors, and the under-development, multi-nation, F-35 joint strike fighter. This latter, once again, is a Lockheed Martin product.
Super cruise allows a fighter an extended range of operation as it enables it to fly at supersonic speeds without the use of after-burners. The use of afterburners in fighters results in extra consumption of fuel, as it sprays fuel in the engine exhaust to provide a boost to the aircraft.
Lockheed Martin director, business development, Chuck Artymovich, told a group of Indian newsmen that the AESA radar, which provides the capability to simultaneously track and destroy ground and air threats, has been cleared by the US government for installation in 80 F-16s ordered by the United Arab Emirates.
"We are confident that similar green signal would be given for installation of such radars in the case of export to India also," he said.
Talking about the India-specific F-16 IN, the Lockheed Martin executive said that the proposed fighter would also be armed with infrared search and track as well as electronic counter-measure (ECM) warfare pods.
"The F-16 IN is a complete new aircraft and totally caters to India's requirements and there could be no comparison with Block 50 and 60 fighters, being made for other countries," he said.
Lockheed Martin officials said that there were fair chances of India increasing its fighter order by another 50 aircraft.
The tenders for the order are due to be examined on 2 March.
Besides Lockheed Martin's F-16, other major contenders for the contract include Boeing's F-18, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Gripen JAS-39 of Sweden, Dassault's Rafale of France and Russia's re-designated MiG-35.
At the function, Lockheed Martin executives said they had met all requirements proposed in the Indian Request for Proposal (RFP) without giving out any details of the contents, citing confidentiality.
They said that the company was prepared to meet the RFP requirements of offsets, and would do so in the field of aeronautics or for co-development of an Indian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
The Fighting Falcons are one of the world's largest selling fighter aircraft programmes and has been extensively sold to nations across the world.
Pakistan has been an old Lockheed Martin client and has a fresh programme underway for the supply of this aircraft. Deliveries of the new Pakistani F-16s have already begun along with state-of-the-art equipment that enhances their capability manifold.
The Pakistani F-16s are being supplied under a multi-billion dollar programme initiated by the Bush administration, through which Pakistan is meant to fight the war on terror. American media and security analysts have lately begun to question whether the supply of these weapons systems are meant to fight the war on terror or to boost Pakistan's arsenal aimed at its neighbour to the east, India.