America’s top fighter jet manufacturer Lockheed has said it is open to helping India in the production of the indigenously-designed light combat aircraft Tejas. Currently, the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is producing around eight Tejas annually and the defence ministry wants it to increase the number to 18 planes per year. Tejas is a single engine multi-role aircraft. It is the smallest and lightest Multi-Role Supersonic Fighter Aircraft of its class. Vivek Lall, vice-president of Strategy and Business Development for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, told PTI that the company is open to helping India on Tejas. “Lockheed Martin has a strong record of successful international industrial partnerships, many of which happen to be directly related to the F-16,” the Indian-American official said. “The F-16 is a proven force multiplier that would certainly complement the Tejas,” Lall said. He said the production of F-16 in India, as being proposed by Lockheed, will not only put the country at the epicentre of a USD 165 billion fighter aircraft sustainment market but also the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem. Lockheed, which has proposed to shift its entire F-16 manufacturing base to India, subject to it getting a major order from the Indian armed forces, argued that currently there are production opportunities for more than 400 such fighter jets globally. “Exclusive F-16 production will put India at the epicentre of a USD 165 billion fighter aircraft sustainment market and the world’s largest fighter aircraft ecosystem. The F-16 will also enables Indian industry to establish new relationships with Lockheed Martin and other global industry leaders,” he said. “Those relationships and the technology sharing they facilitate can spawn new ideas and innovation in India for decades to come. This is about far more than an F-16 production line. It’s about building trust, strategic partnerships and new ideas to unleash the potential of India’s own innovators,” he said in response to a question.