Eyeing India’s multi-billion dollar fighter jet market, Boeing has offered to build a 21st century aerospace ecosystem in India for co-developing F/A-18 Super Hornet upgrades as part of the country’s advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) programme.
Two major American fighter jets manufacturers – Boeing and Lockheed Martin – are in the race for the Indian fighter jet market. Lockheed Martin has offered to shift its entire F-16 manufacturing base from US to India.
“What we’re talking about is a complete ecosystem of capability – it’s building up supply chain, it’s building up engineering capacity, technical mechanical capacity. It is bringing the build, not the kit, to India,” Marc Allen, president of Boeing International and a member of the Boeing Executive Council, told PTI.
Last month, Allen was named senior vice president of Boeing and president of Embraer Partnership and Group Operations. Boeing has offered that future F/A-18 Super Hornet upgrades can be co-developed with India, maximizing performance, affordability, indigenisation for decades. The McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet is a twin-engine, supersonic, all-weather, carrier-capable, multirole combat jet, designed as both a fighter and attack aircraft.
As a result, Allen argued, the impact will be transformational – building a next gen war fighter in India and a 21st century aerospace ecosystem with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Mahindra along with Boeing industry’s partners (GE Aviation, GKN Aero, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon).
“And that’s why the idea of being able to service, both the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force requirements together is so vital because it creates a volume that supports industrial development at a massive scale,” Allen said in response to a question.
Boeing says that the ‘Make in India’ programme for the Super Hornet has been envisioned for aircraft made in India for India. The Super Hornet production line will exist in the US to meet the immediate needs of its American and international customers.
India is to build an entirely new line, leveraging Boeing’s commercial and defence experience, Allen said. The Super Hornet is the airplane that fits the requirement of both the Indian Navy and Air force, he asserted. Boeing says that the Super Hornet offering for India co-opts the expertise of a public-private partnership with HAL and Mahindra to make the F/A-18 Super Hornet in an advanced Factory-of-the-Future in India.
The partnership, it asserts, will harness productivity opportunities in India to deliver more-for-less (more capability for less cost) to its Indian customers and worldwide. Noting that its current F/A-18 production involves 60,000 jobs and 800 suppliers in 44 US States, Boeing officials say that this can be replicated in India.
This partnership will create jobs and industrial capacity in India and also helps Boeing stay globally competitive. The future production with Indian partners will involve maximizing indigenous content and producing the F/A-18 in India thereby creating a 21st century aerospace ecosystem, Allen said as he refuted giving a direct answer to the question of minimum number of fighter jet orders it needs from India to develop that ecosystem.
“We have not framed up our responses to the government’s request for information around a minimum order now, but what we’ve done is that show us your requirements and we’ll show you what’s possible inside your requirements.
But certainly, the government recognizes the programmatic constraints that the more it’s able invest in a broader program that can cover multiple services, the more capacity for industrial development it will get,” he said.
“We will shape our bid to the number. There’s less we can do at a lower number in terms of what’s made in India. And to get to the full up ecosystem, the more the purchases, the more that can be done. It’s a sliding scale. And remember it’s also a sliding timescale,” he said.
But at the same time, Allen said that Boeing is not waiting for the competition to begin building the ecosystem. Boeing, Allen said will continue to invest millions of dollars in supplier development, training, tooling and quality systems and skill development at its Indian suppliers.
Allen said Boeing plans to expand its footprint in India from 3,000 engineers to 5,000 in the next couple of years.
“We’re on our incredible trajectory of that growth. We’ve also opened up the Apache fuselage manufacturing operation. It’s a joint venture – Boeing and Tata that works out of Hyderabad,” he said.