Eyeing the requirement of a large number of military jets by the Navy and the IAF, US defence major Boeing today offered to set up a manufacturing facility in India for production of its F/A 18 Super Hornet aircraft, if the company gets contracts for their supply. Specifically aiming at the Navy’s planned acquisition of 57 multi-role carrier-borne fighters (MRCBF), Boeing said F/A 18 Super Hornet would be the ideal jet for the Navy’s carrier. “We are talking about creating a next generation facility in India. We think the Super Hornet is the most advanced airplane that India could manufacture which will lead to the next generation of aeroplane that India will design and build here,” Dan Gillian, Vice President of Boeing’s F/A 18 programme, said.
He said the F/A 18 Super Hornet will not require any modifications to operate from Indian carriers and will have lowest cost per hour flight ratio compared to other such platforms. He said Boeing was also looking at requirements of the Indian Air Force to replace its ageing Mig 21 jets. In January, the Indian Navy had launched a Request for Information (RFI) to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its carrier.
The RFI, dated January 17, says the aircraft are “intended as day-and-night capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air defence, air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance etc. from IN aircraft carriers”.
At present, the Navy operates 45 MIG-29K jets, which from time-to-time face serviceability issues. Currently, six planes are compatible for aircraft carrier flying. They are Rafale (Dassault, France), F-18 Super Hornet (Boeing, US), MIG-29K (Russia), F-35B and F-35C (Lockheed Martin, US) and Gripen (Saab, Sweden).
While F-18, Rafale and MIG-29K are twin engine jets, the remaining three have single engine. Gillian said Boeing would be happy to compliment India’s Make in India initiative. He said around 16,000 people and 800 suppliers are involved in the F-18 programme.
“We envisioned bringing a large part of it to India. It’s not about moving our production line…. We think we can bring best of the Boeing to India. We can create a next generation 21st century factory in India to build Super Hornet,” said Gillian. Referring to the companies track record on delivery, he said, “Only 2 per cent of my aircraft are delivered on time. 98 per cent are delivered early.”
US defence secretary James Mattis is likely to visit India in the last week of next month and issues relating to joint development of weapons system are likely to figure during the talks he will have here.
In June 2016, the US had designated India as “Major Defence Partner” intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.
The Indo-US defence and security ties have been on an upswing and both sides are expected to discuss extensively some of the defence procurement deals during the visit of Mattis, the sources said.