|By Our Correspondent||Published: February 2018|
Singapore. Boeing has pitched its Advanced F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets and KC-46 midair refueling jets to India as it seeks to carve a bigger share of the defense market in the South Asian country, among the world’s biggest arms importers.
Boeing has responded to a ‘Request for Information’ or RFI by the Indian Navy, Gene Cunningham, Boeing’s vice president for defense, space and security, said at the four-day Singapore Airshow which concluded February 9. The Indian Navy is currently processing proposals from several manufacturers.
“We would expect them to pull together more definitive requirements based on the inputs that they would have and then move forward with a tender,” he said adding that on its part, Boeing is looking at local partners to fulfill the ‘Make In India’ part of any potential deal and expects to have preliminary relationships stitched by the end of this year.
The aerospace giant, which already has the biggest share among the US companies in India, is among the multinational respondents now discussing some Requests for Information (RFIs) for potential partnerships with the Indian industry.
“A lot of technical evaluation has yet to take place,” Mr Cunningham said.
The Indian Navy last year invited proposals for 57 jets for its aircraft carriers, while the Indian Air Force (IAF) is seeking at least 100 twin-engine fighter planes along with an equal number or more of single engine jets in a different category. Boeing and Saab AB have said in the past that India should combine the two – IAF and Navy – parallel procurements, which would make it the world’s biggest fighter jet order.
Boeing officials didn’t comment on a possible timeline for a deal.
The broad contours of the Navy’s procurement are still being worked out and a tender could take some time. The Indian government’s requirements may keep evolving as the process moves ahead, Mr. Cunningham said.
The two parts of any deal will involve the Navy’s requirements and the government’s conditions on the Make in India part. The two may not move at the same pace. The manufacturers will also need to consider the industrial requirements and partnerships with local firms as needed under the government’s plan.
While the process will take its own time, Mr. Cunningham said, there is a strong interest on the part of the Indian government to support the Navy towards a third carrier, and obviously more shipboard aircraft. Depending upon the timelines though, projections and capability of the aircraft would also change.
A deal will be attractive for India both from a defence capability and industrial technology share perspective.
On the potential KC-46 deal, Boeing hopes that its tanker can meet the requirements of the Indian Air Force. The company is responding to the RFI for the Indian requirement for a tanker aircraft, Mr Cunningham said.