Deft Move

Boeing paves the ground for Next-Gen Super Hornet

A FORCE Report

Chennai: In what would silence the critics of the Strategic Partnership model envisioned in the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP) 2016, India seems to have made the maiden breakthrough. Three major giants in their own rights — Boeing as the proven world-class integrator of technologies, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) as India’s premier aerospace company and Mahindra Defence, whose footprints are discernible in aircraft flown in 31 countries — joined hands today to manufacture the next generation Super Hornet (F/A-18 E/F Block III) under the ‘Make in India’ policy.

Boeing signs an agreement with HAL and Mahindra Defence for F/A-18. In the picture, Boeing’s Pratyush Kumar (left) with HAL CMD Suvarna Raju (3rd from left) and Mahindra Defence’s S.P. Shukla (2nd from right). For detailed report, look out for the May issue

According to the Chairman HAL, T. Suvarna Raju, “Boeing will supply the technology, which would be digested by HAL by providing its design expertise, facilities and services, and Mahindra Defence would contribute with its manufacturing expertise.” President Boeing India, Pratyush Kumar ensured that his technology partners, namely, GE, GKN, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, were represented at the announcement to share the limelight.

Speaking on the occasion, Pratyush Kumar said, “Boeing is excited to team up with India’s only company that manufactures combat fighters, HAL, and India’s only company that manufactures utility and surveillance aircrafts, Mahindra. This partnership brings the best of Indian public and private enterprises together in partnership with the world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing, to accelerate a contemporary 21st century ecosystem for aerospace & defence manufacturing in India. He added, “Our partnership with HAL and Mahindra will enable us to optimise the full potential of India’s public and private sector to deliver next-generation F/A-18 fighter capabilities. Together we can deliver an affordable, combat-proven fighter platform for India, while adding growth momentum to the Indian aerospace ecosystem with manufacturing, skill development, innovation and engineering and job creation.”

Boeing’s optimism was equally matched by HAL. Replying to FORCE’s query, Raju said that the first step in the made in India Super Hornet would be to create the defence ecosystem (where India and the US would work together) simultaneously as the technology absorption and production of the fighter aircraft starts in India. In the next step, the acquired capabilities would be utilised indigenously. Left unsaid was that the Light Combat Aircraft Mark I would gain from this awesome partnership to telescope its production. To another question, Raju said that additional facilities could be created (since HAL with the responsibility of ramping-up of 83 LCA production) for Super Hornet-India.

“HAL has always been at the forefront of development in India’s aerospace sector,” he said, adding that, “This partnership with Boeing and Mahindra Defence Systems will create an opportunity to develop capabilities of the aerospace industry and strengthen indigenous platforms in India thereby contributing to the ‘Make in India’ activities.”

Conscious of the pivotal role of the government, Pratyush Kumar made it known in his initial remarks that Boeing had started its discussions on this Strategic Partnership with the defence ministry two years ago. Given the fact that Boeing is perhaps the only foreign defence company in India with a proven business strategy, it seems to have made good headway with the government.

Boeing, after all, has already created an impressive ecosystem in India with an annual turnover of one billion dollars. This is in addition to its products which have entered the India Services’ inventory, are in the pipeline, and those which are strong contenders like the Integrator (tactical unmanned aerial systems) and the air-tanker KC-46 A (with capability to carry two different fuels). And not to forget the political heft that it brings to India at a time when relations between India and China are not the best.

Mahindra Group was represented by Group President, Aerospace & Defence, Mahindra Group, and Chairman, Mahindra Defence Systems S.P. Shukla. He said, “We are excited about the opportunities that this partnership with Boeing and HAL will provide for us to contribute further to ‘Make in India’ for defence,” said. “As one of the largest private sector defence companies, we look forward to supporting the modernisation effort of our armed forces and achieving economies of scale in the aerospace and defence sector.”


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