US aerospace major Boeing on Wednesday, August 24 pitched its F/A-18 Super Hornet as the best platform to address the Indian Navy’s requirement for deck-based jets for aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.
Top officials of Boeing said the company anticipates USD 3.6 billion in economic impact to the Indian aerospace and defence industry over the next 10 years if F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III is selected.
The Navy has shortlisted F/A-18 Super Hornet and Rafale M aircraft produced by the French aerospace major Dassault Aviation for procurement.
Over four years back, the Indian Navy had initiated the process to acquire 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its aircraft carrier. The Navy is expected to choose between the F-18 and the French Rafale for the procurement of around 26 jets in the next few months. Of these, eight are to be twin-seat variants.
Planemaker Boeing plans to build on its existing investments in India in areas such as defence supply chains and manufacturing.
Boeing India President Salil Gupte said F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III would be the best deck-based aircraft for the Indian Navy and that the company plans to further strengthen its ‘Make in India’ initiatives, building on a successful track record of contributing to the country’s indigenous aerospace and defence ecosystem.
He said Boeing anticipates USD 3.6 billion in economic impact on the Indian aerospace and defence industry over the next 10 years, with the F/A-18 Super Hornet as India’s next carrier-based fighter.
Two US Navy F/A-18E Super Hornets completed multiple demonstrations at a naval facility in Goa recently. Gupte said the economic impact would be over and above Boeing’s current offset obligations and plans in the country.
“As a trusted partner of India’s aerospace sector for more than 75 years, Boeing has made significant investments in India’s aerospace and defense industry and will continue to do so. Our investments span the entire spectrum of local manufacturing, engineering and R&D, and training and skilling to help build a robust ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ in aerospace and defense.
The selection of the F/A-18 Super Hornet for India will help boost investments in India’s defense industry.”Salil Gupte, President, Boeing India
Gupte said Boeing plans to build on its existing industrial base and strengthen its commitment to ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ with continued investments in India across five pillars.
These include supply chain development and manufacturing; engineering and technology transfer; long-term support and training; infrastructure investments; and contributions of the ‘Hornet team’, comprising General Electric, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon.
“The Block III Super Hornet we are offering to the Indian Navy has the most advanced and critical capability. With its open architecture design and continuously evolving capability suite, the Super Hornet will outpace current threats, facilitate rapid capability insertion and has unmatched affordability.
Boeing is making investments in advanced technologies and capabilities on our Block III Super Hornet and the F-15EX today so we will be ready for the future. The Indian Navy will benefit from these investments for decades to come.
Designed from its inception as a carrier-based fighter for high-loading, high stress operations, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III will bring advanced, next-generation capabilities that will help the Indian Navy meet emerging and future threats.”Steve Parker, Vice President and General Manager, Bombers and Fighters division, Boeing Defence, Space and Security
Parker said Boeing plans to manufacture some components of the F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III and did not rule out setting up an assembly line for the aircraft.
“In addition, along with the contributions to the Indian economy by our Hornet industry partners — General Electric, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, the Super Hornet will deliver significant benefits to India’s defence sector.”Alain Garcia, Vice President, India Business Development, Boeing Defense, Space and Security and Global Services
At present, the Indian Navy operates Russian-origin MiG-29K fighters from its sole aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. The Request For Information issued by the Navy for procurement of the deck-based fighter jets sought to know at what level of Transfer of Technology the companies are willing to share with India.
Boeing says it will also leverage investments made in the Boeing India Engineering & Technology Center (BIETC), which has a pool of 3,000-plus engineers and innovators in Bengaluru and Chennai to drive growth and innovation, and advance work in materials, manufacturing technologies and methods, and the “Digital World.”
Garcia indicated that Boeing was open to sharing some technologies of the F/A-18 Super Hornet with India. INS Vikrant is likely to be commissioned on September 2.
India is one of the world’s largest arms importers, spending USD 12.4 billion between 2018 and 2021, the SIPRI Arms Transfers Database shows.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is looking to domestic firms and eastern European nations for military gear and ammunition and has identified INR 25.15 billion (USD 324 million) worth of defence equipment it wants domestic firms to manufacture in 2022.
Which one is better for India?
Each fighter brings certain advantages while having some limitations. For instance, Rafale-M does not have a twin-seater trainer while its acquisition would mean commonality with the 36 Rafale jets of the Indian Air Force. On the other hand, the F/A-18 is a dedicated carrier-based jet with over 800 aircraft having been delivered to date.
“Super Hornet is powered by a General Electric GE-414 engine which is from the same family of engines powering the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft. We have developed an India-specific version of the GE-414 for the LCA-MK2. This could also become the engine for the indigenous fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) under development.”Satya Prakash, GE Aviation