The US Defence major Boeing has entered the race for $ 15 billion Indian Navy 57 fighters acquisition programme for its Aircraft Carriers, with an add on lucrative offer to Indian MOD, for manufacturing one of the world's most advanced and stealthy fighter Super Hornet for the Indian Air Force under the 'Make in India' programme. The Boeing officials made a detailed presentation to the mandarins of the Ministry of Defence in the last week of August, promising to set up a next generation facility in India for creating globally competitive supply base in India. Though Boeing has not yet identified its potential India partner under the 'Make in India' programme under the much awaited Strategic Partnership model of the Modi Government, notified in the middle of this year, it is confident of selecting a right partner, as Boeing is already working with result oriented partners in India for global supplies.
Senior officials of Boeing here said that its major focus is on creating capacity. Banking on it's success with Tatas for manufacturing the Apache attack helicopter fuselage in India, the President of Boeing India Pratyush Kumar said that we are manufacturing in India as we have a commitment for long term and we intend to support the Boeing made platforms in India for decades.
The Vice President of Boeing F/A-18 and EA Programme Dan Gillian said that a platform like the Super Hornet under the 'Make in India' programme will enable the Indian aviation industry to position itself for the development and manufacture of DRDO led Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft(AMCA) programme. However, at present, Kumar said, Boeing is looking for replacing the ageing MiG-21 air defence fighters of the Indian Air Force. Since MiG-21s are over three decades old, the IAF will have to look beyond Rafale for meeting its urgent requirements.
Along with this, Gillian claimed that Boeing is ready to provide the capability needed for the Indian Navy to build its next generation maritime fighter. Under the 'Make in India' offer Boeing can also provide the industrial base right here behind that capability.
According to Gillian, when we look across the globe at quality, capability and cost – India is an obvious partner. Gillian informed that Boeing has been making aero-structures and assemblies in India because it makes good business sense to do so.
In response to the RFI issued by the Indian Navy for supply of 57 Multi Role Carrier Borne fighters (MRCBF) in January this year, Boeing will be competing mainly with the Dassault made naval version of Rafale. The other contenders are the Swedish SAAB Sea Grippen and Russian MiG-29K. Dan Gillian claimed, "we think that the Super Hornet is the most advanced airplane that India could manufacture which will lead to the next generation of the plane that India intends to design and build here."
However Dassault and SAAB also have offered to set up production lines in India, if they are promised orders in large numbers. Like Dassault and SAAB, Boeing is also eyeing the Indian Air Force orders for the multi role combat aircrafts. Boeing officials are aware of the moves in Indian Air Force headquarters to acquire another batch of 36 Rafale, in addition to 36 already under production for IAF. All the manufacturers are offering Naval and Air Force variants of the fighters.
Gillian says that Super Hornet will compete on the basis of its revolutionary performance with qualities like – Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAL) , Offensive Counter Attack (OCA) and Defensive Counter Attack (DCA). The Stealthy Super Hornet Block-3 are far superior in Area Access Area Denial (A2AD), with APG 7 AESA radars, naval integrated fire control, counter air intelligence, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) etc. It's next generation advanced cockpit system is very pilot friendly. The Indian Navy in its RFI has specified its requirement for the fighter as day-night all weather, multi-role deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air-defence, air to surface operations, buddy refuelling, Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare missions from Aircraft Carriers.
Kumar said, "We are taking a holistic look at requirements. Multi Role F-18 brings to the table its comprehensive capabilities to the IAF and the Navy at an affordable price. He claimed that Super Hornet are the cheapest aircraft per flying hour. If you want to have affordable aircraft without much compromise, Super Hornets are the answer, claimed Kumar.
However, Indian Navy officials said that responses from all the contenders are being evaluated and formal RFP is likely to be issued by early next year. These multi role fighter jets are to be deployed on Aircraft Carriers INS Vikramaditya and Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC).