Interview | President Boeing India, Pratyush Kumar

‘The F/A-18 will provide unmatched benefits to not only the Indian armed forces but also to India’s indigenous aerospace manufacturing sector’

President Boeing India, Pratyush Kumar
President Boeing India, Pratyush Kumar

You have been quite articulate in expressing your reservations about the Strategic Partner clause of the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). What, in Boeing’s experience, should be an ideal mix of public-private partnership in defence manufacturing?

It will be necessary to fine-tune not just strategic partnerships but strategic partnerships in a public-private manner that optimises the full value of what the country can offer and then link it to the future platforms.

The successful examples involve co-opting public and private enterprise in a way that leveraged the investment made in the public enterprise for multiple decades. It is difficult to find a single example in the world where it was just the private or public enterprise. Look at Turkey, Japan, Brazil, in all cases there is a fine balancing act of co-opting the capabilities of both public and private enterprise.


In what way can Boeing contribute to the ambitious ‘Make in India’ going beyond assembling of kits? To what extent can you share the know-how and know-why?

To accelerate momentum in the aerospace industry and capitalise on India’s strengths, you have to focus on three things - scale, scope and skill.

First, scale. To create a credible, globally competitive industrial base, you’ve got to have a critical scale. That scale has to be thoughtfully created. By consolidating requirements across different services. If every services requirement for every mission is fragmented and we aren’t able to consolidate in meaningful numbers, then scale opportunity is lost. Similarly, the scale has to be thoughtfully built by thinking across aircraft systems and looking at critical components. If every aircraft type has a different engine, will miss opportunity to create a scale to build a globally competitive industrial base for a common engine across multiple platforms.

Second point is scope. We have to evolve from built-to-print to design, develop and manufacture, which requires a lot more than just build to print. We need a full ecosystem for industrial participation and a tiered structure that exists in the world to support that. The scope piece also requires to go beyond the immediate platform in question. We have to think about how we build next-generation technologies. We’re at a stage where we have requirements - we might be looking at pre-stealth technology fighters - but we are at the cusp where we must think about post-stealth technology fighters. Then we have to think about the trade-offs that comes then. Stealth by itself is not everything. It comes with trade-offs. Think about maintainability and robustness required to use this platform effectively in combat situations. That is what you need to survive.

Then there are skills which means that we have to build the full spectrum - from frontline factory workers to design engineers – and all that has to come together for us to capitalise on.

Boeing is making the investments required to do this and is delivering on its ‘Make in India’ promise. Boeing has quadrupled its manufacturing and sourcing activities in the country and will surpass a billion dollars this year with 160 suppliers. We have been working with these suppliers and partners in manufacturing, IT and engineering services to provide parts and assemblies covering aerostructures, wire harness, composites, forgings, avionics mission systems, ground support equipment and training. Through Boeing’s efforts, the supplier base is delivering on complex work packages for commercial and defence aircraft such as the 777, 787, P-8, F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-15, AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook.

Our F/A-18 Super Hornet ‘Make in India’ proposition is a fine example of what the future could look like. The F/A-18 Super Hornet will provide unmatched benefits to not only the Indian armed forces but also to India’s indigenous aerospace manufacturing sector. We are prepared to bring our global scale and supply chain, its best-in-industry precision manufacturing processes, as well as the company’s unrivalled experience designing and optimising aerospace production facilities to bear in both expanding India’s aerospace ecosystem and in serving as a bridge to the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). The depth of the transfer will really help advance India’s aerospace ecosystem.

We think we can bring the best of Boeing from both the commercial and defence business and from what we’ve learned about making F/A-18 Super Hornets to create the next generation 21st century aerospace capability in India.

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