US aviation manufacturer Lockheed Martin has offered to build 'exclusive' F-16 fighters for the Indian Air Force, much superior to any existing fighters in service in the world.
"If India's requirements are beyond any existing fighters, we are prepared to make upgraded F-16s to India's specifications with complete transfer of technology," Mike Kelly, Senior Executive of Lockheed Martin told PTI.
The comments assume importance in the wake of the US administration's decision on Saturday to clear sales of F-16s to Pakistan and allow American firms to sell sophisticated weapons to India.
"We have in the past taken up the building of such exclusive fighters for the UAE [United Arab Emirates] and are prepared to manufacture F-16s to India's special requirements," he said.
Lockheed Martin currently manufactures two versions of F-16s. While Block 50-52 is being supplied to the US and European air forces, the Block 60 has been developed exclusively for the United Arab Emirates.
"We are ready to develop new Block 70 for the IAF," the Lockheed Martin official said.
Besides Lockheed Martin, the US announcement on Saturday has cleared the ground for the other American aviation giant, Boeing, to bid for India's plans to acquire 126 multi-role combat aircraft.
Boeing would face competition from Dassault, the makers of French Mirage fighters, Swedish Grippen and the Russians.