The recent qualification of the first F-16 fighter wing built in India by Tata-Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Limited (TLMAL), a Joint Venture (JV) between Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) and Lockheed Martin showcases the rapid strides being made by the Tata Group in the aerospace sector. This manufacture of an F-16 fighter wing approved to stringent military aviation standards is one of several firsts for Tata group entities, many of whom have running contracts for supply of large aerostructures to global OEMs as single source suppliers.
The Tata Group has been rapidly growing its capability to manufacture increasingly complex aerostructures as evidenced by several of its other projects for platforms such as Sikorsky S-92, Lockheed Martin C-130J, Boeing AH64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook. TASL's newly demonstrated ability to build a prototype F-16 fighter wing, will allow it the opportunity to become part of the F-16 global supply chain. Sukaran Singh, MD and CEO, TASL, said, "The successful completion of the fighter wing shipset prototype project by TLMAL has created a new benchmark in complex and endto-end defence manufacturing in India that demands utmost precision and quality in all aspects of the process."
F-16 Fighter Wing
The fighter wing of a modern combat aircraft can be considered as one of the technologically complex aerostructures to manufacture. A fighter aircraft wing needs to cater for 9G dynamic loads, ability to carry weapons and sensors weighing hundreds of kgs and also carry fuel and electrical wiring lines inside the wing. An aircraft wing also needs to have a long service life despite the high stress environment of combat flight and complaints such as wing cracks or other fatigue related failures are often costly and time-consuming to rectify across an aircraft fleet. The new fuel-carrying F-16 wing has a 12,000-hour service life and is also interchangeable and replaceable when fitted on the aircraft. It can sustain loads of 9G.
TLMAL's Hyderabad facility has demonstrated its capability to not only undertake detailed part manufacturing but also deliver a fully compliant representative fighter aircraft wing shipset. Aimee Burnett Lockheed Martin, Vice President, Integrated Fighter Group Business Development congratulated TLMAL for demonstrating their manufacturing capabilities & also meeting Lockheed Martin's Digital Engineering requirements through wing digitisation for this prototype project. Several Indian firms have been qualified by both companies for the F-16 wing programme, which has now ensured that over 70% of the required detailed parts are sourced from within in India.
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