Interview | Managing Director, Boeing Defence India, Surendra Ahuja

We are Awaiting the Requirements for the MRFA Competition to Assess if F-15EX Would Fit Well into Indian Air Force’s Force Structure


Managing Director, Boeing Defence India, Surendra AhujaHow has Chinook evolved over the last 60 years?

The 60th anniversary of the Chinook’s first flight was recently celebrated. While the iconic shape of the Chinook hasn’t changed much over time, the capability of the aircraft has evolved remarkably since the 1960s. With the Block II programme, the aircraft will continue to evolve and dominate the heavy tactical lift landscape well into the future, making it a true 100-year (at least) aircraft. The Block II programme, currently in engineering, manufacturing and development, incorporates upgrades to increase lift capability, improve commonality between the US Army and allied fleets, and reduce maintenance costs.


Are there plans to set up MRO facilities in India for the Chinooks?

From performance-based logistics contracting and integrated fleet support to vertical lift maintenance, modifications and repairs, Boeing provides a broad spectrum of innovative products and services which directly support and enhance capabilities while reducing total cost of ownership for our Chinook customers globally. Boeing’s investments in services infrastructure, building local capabilities, workforce training and partnerships in India are aimed at ensuring the Indian armed forces successfully complete their missions, operate their assets at peak condition and do so affordably.

Boeing is working with Indian customers to provide exceptional operational capability and readiness for defence platforms that includes the Chinooks with the Indian Air Force. Earlier this year, we introduced Boeing India Repair Development and Sustainment (BIRDS) Hub. BIRDS is an initiative to bring together ecosystem partners to shape India as a strategic destination for aerospace engineering, maintenance, repair and sustainment services. This is first of its kind initiative that provides customers with best-in-class solutions, efficient turnaround times, and optimal economical value, all available in-country.


What is the update on Boeing’s F-15EX offer to the Indian Air Force?

In early 2021, Boeing received a marketing license approval from the US government to offer the F-15EX to India. We are awaiting the requirements for the Multi Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA) competition to assess if F-15EX would fit well into Indian Air Force’s force structure and look forward to working with IAF on their detailed requirements for the MRFA competition.

Boeing demonstrated the F/A-18 Super Hornet jets from a ski jump. Have any further talks between Boeing and the Indian Navy taken place?

With its rapid technology insertion plan, the Boeing F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet on offer to the Indian Navy (IN) is the most advanced, multi-role, frontline fighter of the US Navy. The Super Hornet has validated STOBAR performance in a real-world environment from the USN facility in Patuxent River and is the only OEM in the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighter (MRCBF) competition to have done so.

Also, the two-seater version of the Super Hornet is fully carrier compatible and offers flexibility and the best utilization of precious air assets. This means that, firstly, the Super Hornet two-seater would permit the Indian Navy to train their budding fighter pilots aboard their carriers for their initial carrier qualification. More importantly, it also means that the two-seater inventory that the Indian Navy procures will also be available to be deployed for operations aboard their carriers thereby allowing the Indian Navy and ministry of defence to get operational benefits of their funds completely.

I must also add that the Super Hornet would provide the force multiplier advantage that networking with Indian Navy’s other US origin assets (such as P-8Is, MH-60R and Sea Guardians) brings to the fight. Also, the operational advantages of interoperability of the Super Hornet with the US forces in the Indo-Pacific cannot be ignored. We continue to have discussions with the Indian Navy along with the US Navy on this subject.


How is Boeing assisting the IAF in maintaining the serviceability of its C-17 fleet?

The C-17 fleet has been a vital part of the IAF strategic and combat airlift capability. The IAF’s C-17s have performed a wide range of operations in military missions, and provided peacekeeping support, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief in India and internationally, since their induction into the Sky Lords squadron in 2013.

Boeing is supporting the IAF C-17 fleet under the Globemaster Integrated Support Programme (GISP) and has been maintaining the fleet through techno-logistics support for aircrew that operate the platform. The C-17 fleet has maintained high serviceability rates since its induction. Boeing is responsible for maintenance, field support services, modifications and upgrades, technical manual support and logistics engineering services. The IAF’s C-17 fleet, since their induction in 2013, have logged more than 31,000 flight hours.

Boeing’s C-17 simulator training centre provides training services to the IAF. Boeing’s C-17 training centre in India has completed thousands of training hours for aircrews and loadmasters for the IAF. Boeing’s Global C-17 support programme is a Performance-Based Logistics (PBL) contract designed to provide the United States Air Force (USAF) and international partners with maximum aircraft availability while optimizing affordability and lowest sustainment risks for all C-17 support elements.

The C-17, as you know, is the world’s premier heavy-lift aircraft and will continue to prove itself as a versatile strategic airlifter in future operations to come.


Boeing has next generation space programme like Artemis among others. Do you foresee Boeing’s collaboration with India on space technologies?

India’s recent strides in space exploration have been remarkable and have captured the admiration of the world including all of us at Boeing. It is a testimony to the country’s innovation, talent, determination and a full embrace of the challenges of space. Boeing is inspired by what India has achieved and its aspirations for the future. We look forward to partnering with the Indian Space Research Organisation in their endeavours related to human space flight and wish them continued success.


Tell us about the Indian Navy’s interest in additional P-8Is.

The P-8I’s unmatched maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, versatility and operational readiness are uniquely qualified to perform a wide range of missions across the Indian Ocean Region. P-8Is, have, therefore proven to be an important asset to the Indian Navy. We see that the navy has requirement for more P-8Is and we stand ready to support them. We’ll defer you to the Indian Navy for specific details on their acquisition plans. Our focus has been, and will continue to be, towards delivering the world’s best maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft to the Indian Navy.

Boeing recently delivered the 10th P-8I to the Navy, the second aircraft to be delivered under an option contract for four additional aircraft that the ministry of defence awarded in 2016. Boeing also supports India’s P-8I fleet through our services business by providing performance-based logistics, spares, ground support equipment, as well as field service representative and on-site engineering support. Our integrated logistics support has enabled the highest state of fleet readiness.

We are also leveraging the Indian industrial base for local capabilities including supply of indigenous equipment on the P-8I and repair of critical components. With Airworks Pvt Ltd, we have been successfully addressing heavy maintenance checks for the P-8I in country. Further capability development planning is in progress to support the growing P-8I fleet, improving the local aviation ecosystem while ensuring quicker turnaround for the Indian Navy.

Boeing is currently completing construction on a Training Support & Data Handling (TSDH) Centre at INS Rajali, Arakkonam, in Tamil Nadu, and a secondary centre at Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology, Kochi, as part of a training and support package contract signed in 2019. The indigenous, ground-based training will allow the Indian Navy crew to increase mission proficiency in a shorter time, while reducing the on-aircraft training time resulting in increased aircraft availability for mission tasking.


Has Boeing made any offers in regard with drones and digital technologies to India?

Boeing is honoured to support India’s armed forces on multiple programmes today. We stand ready to support all future requirements to provide proven, capable and innovative products and services that Boeing can offer. Also, as part of our Performance Based Logistics support on rotorcraft and P-8Is, Boeing is looking to use sophisticated digital tools to improve predictive maintenance and ensure better logistics support thereby improving overall aircraft availability.


Boeing was closely involved in Covid-19 relief work in India. What all did the company undertake?

As part of our commitment to India and to support the country’s response to Covid-19, we announced a USD10 million emergency assistance package earlier this year, to be directed to organisations providing relief, including medical supplies and emergency healthcare.

We worked with international relief organisations to provide medical supplies for the treatment of patients, including organisations like Doctors for You, CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere, Inc.), SELCO Foundation, U.S. India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and PM CARES (Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations) Fund. These organisations provided an array of services including managing health care facilities in high-need areas and making available personal protective equipment (PPE) at these facilities, setting up a healthcare facility for children affected by Covid, mobile testing labs and oxygen concentrator distribution centres across India.

Boeing also partnered with several state governments in India to set up field hospitals in the country for the treatment of Covid patients in Madurai and Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu; Yelahanka, Karnataka; Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh; Golconda & Mahbubnagar, Telangana; and Janjgir Champa, Chhattisgarh.




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