By Rachit Vats
BENGALURU, India (Reuters) - U.S. defence company Lockheed Martin said on Thursday that talks were taking place between the United States and the Indian government over its offer of setting up a factory to produce F-16 fighter planes in India.
Lockheed is pushing ahead with its proposal to transfer the F-16 production line to India to supply the Indian air force, but it understands that U.S. President Donald Trump's administration may want to take a fresh look at such plans.
"The conversation at this point has progressed between governments," Randall L Howard, Lockheed's head of F-16 business development, told reporters at an air show in the southern Indian city of Bengaluru.
"We have had very strong support up to this point from the U.S. government. We are deferring any concerns over to the two governments as discussions have progressed to the point where requirements need to be more fully articulated," Howard said, adding that Lockheed Martin is fully supportive of those discussions.
Trump's criticism of U.S. auto and drug companies moving manufacturing overseas and then selling goods back to the United States has raised concern over Lockheed's plans, though in this case the factory would supply the Indian military rather than export to the United States.
India's defence ministry issued a request last year asking foreign manufacturers if they were willing to produce a single-engine combat plane in India in collaboration with a local partner as part of the government's drive to build a domestic industrial base and reduce imports.
Sweden's Saab is the other contender, offering to make its Gripen fighter in India.
India's air force desperately needs new planes to replace its ageing fleet of Soviet-origin fighters.
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and David Goodman)