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Ready to bring transformative capability to India: Boeing

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Indian Navy and Coast Guard Commandos perform a thrilling live demo in front of jam-packed audience on the Gomti River Front during DefExpo-2020, in Lucknow, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. A PTI Photo

LUCKNOW (PTI): Eyeing two mega fighter jet deals worth over USD 25 billion, US aerospace major Boeing has said it is ready to bring transformative capability and contemporary warfighter technologies to India.

Boeing is a strong contender for Indian Air Force's proposed deal to acquire 114 fighter multi-role fighter jets and Indian Navy's proposal to procure 57 carrier-borne aircraft.

The company has already announced that it is ready to set up manufacturing facilities for its F/A-18 Super Hornet aircraft if it bags the IAF contract.

An important part of our India strategy is ensuring our defence customers have the most advanced platforms and capabilities, supported by a services model that optimises mission readiness, high performance and safety, said Boeing India president Salil Gupte on Thursday.

Another element of our strategy is to harness talent, innovation, engineering and productivity advantages that India offers to build a globally competitive aerospace and defence ecosystem that creates jobs and industrial capacity with Make in India, he said at the DefExpo here.

On the Navy's plan to induct 57 jets, he said the F/A-18 on offer to India will be fully compatible with Indian Naval carriers.

At present, the Indian Navy has one aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, which is a Russian origin platform. The Navy's long-term plan is to have three aircraft carriers. Indigenously built aircraft carrier (IAC) INS Vikrant is expected to be fully operational by 2022.

At DefExpo, Boeing highlighted future investments to accelerate its Make in India efforts and the capabilities being proposed for the Indian armed forces, specifically the next generation F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet fighter that the company said will bring transformative capability and contemporary warfighter technologies to the country.

In April last year, the Indian Air Force issued an RFI (Request for Information), or initial tender, to acquire 114 jets at a cost of around USD 18 billion. It was billed as one of the world's biggest military procurement programme in recent years.

The top contenders for the deal include Lockheed's F-21, Boeing's F/A-18, Dassault Aviation's Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft Mig 35 and Saab's Gripen.

In 2018, the Indian Navy kick-started the process to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its carriers.

At present, six planes are compatible for the aircraft carrier -- Rafale (Dassault, France) F/A 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 other three have a single engine.

Surendra Ahuja, managing director of Boeing's India operations, said the company is ready to expand its operation in the country and referred to the recent induction of Boeing's Chinook heavy-lift and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters by the Indian Air Force.

He said the company will also focus on establishing local rotorcraft training and support facilities.

We are committed to working with our customers to provide holistic solutions for their defence aircraft and services with the right capability, advanced technologies and cost structure. We have accelerated our efforts to set up a local sustainment support footprint in India to be more responsive to our customers' needs, said Ahuja.

Over the last five years, he said, Boeing has quadrupled its growth in India and sourcing up to USD 1 billion of products and services from the country.

With its over 200 suppliers employing 7,000 employees, complex components and subassemblies, some of Boeing's most advanced defence platforms, including the F/A-18, F-15, P-8I, CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache, are made in India, he said.

The Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited joint venture has increased production of fuselages and aero structures for the AH-64 Apache, he added.

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