Interview | President, Boeing India, Salil Gupte

India is One of The Largest Defence Markets for Boeing Globally And is at the Centre of Future Opportunities For Mission Critical Platforms


President, Boeing India, Salil GupteWhat are the highlights of your exhibit at the show? What will be your areas of focus at the show? What are your expectations from the show? What boxes must be ticked for you to consider it a good show?

Boeing looks forward to being at the DefExpo 2022. It is an excellent platform to meet our partners and customers to discuss areas of collaboration that will help take forward the Aatmanirbhar Bharat vision of building a robust defence aerospace ecosystem in India. We have designed our presence taking all necessary precautions to safely engage with our customers, suppliers and the media. Our presence at the show will also conform to the guidelines laid down by the ministry of defence and the state government to ensure the safety of our team members and visitors at the exhibit.

At DefExpo, we will continue our discussions on India’s present and future defence and security requirements and how Boeing can help meet them. India is one of the largest defence markets for Boeing globally and is at the centre of future opportunities for mission critical platforms. Boeing will showcase its capabilities in multi-role fighter aircraft, vertical lift platforms, aerial multi-role tankers, in addition to its services, technologies, and local sustainment capabilities. Boeing’s exhibit will feature a range of advanced capabilities including the F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III, F-15EX, the P-8I, AH-64E Apache, and CH-47 Chinook.

We’re excited to collaborate with our partners and customers to share our expertise in growing the supplier base in India, nurturing innovation, continuing to establish skill development centres and joint ventures for aerospace manufacturing, which are all helping us build a strong aerospace and defence ecosystem in the country.


Boeing has played a major role in modernisation of the Indian armed forces. How does the future look like for Boeing in India?

If we start with a quick look at the last five years, Boeing has accelerated growth in India with a razor-sharp focus on key areas across platform lifecycles.

  • Customer Engagement: Meeting the Indian Navy (IN) and Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) modernisation and mission-readiness needs.
  • Services Growth: Localisation of our services, and the value Boeing Defence India, our local entity in India, is able to provide through the lifecycle of platforms offered.
  • Supplier Expansion: Building an indigenous and robust supplier-partner network with a focus on Aatmanirbhar Bharat

Our proven portfolio of products and services offer unmatched operational capabilities to India’s defence forces across the entire mission spectrum. Today, we support India in its operations of 11 C-17s, 22 AH-64 Apaches (with six more on order), 15 CH-47 Chinooks, and 12 P-8Is.

We are seeing growth in our services business and with it, growth in the value Boeing creates through product lifecycle support and training. We are already working with our armed forces to provide exceptional operational capability and mission-readiness for the P-8I, C-17s, the Apaches, the Chinooks, and the Head of State aircraft through sustainment contracts.

We’re engaged with the IAF on their requirement for Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft and continue to have discussions with the IN on their requirements for the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighter (MRCBF) programme. Also, as the IAF further shapes its defence capabilities, the KC-46 is the perfect choice for a multi-role tanker-transport aircraft for appropriate mid-air refuelling capability. Certified to refuel numerous receiver types, the KC-46 can refuel the IAF fleet on day one. We also believe that India has requirements for more P-8Is, Apaches, and Chinooks, and we stand ready to support them.

For the IN, the F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III will be a transformative capability for their requirement of MRCBF. With the Super Hornet, the IN will get the most advanced and lethal platform while benefiting from the tactics, upgrades and knowledge related to the US naval aviation ecosystem. The Block III configuration is suited to protect India’s maritime interests as it is built to meet the broadest range of missions while benefiting from the upgrades and knowledge related to US naval aviation. We anticipate the Super Hornet opening up opportunities for greater interoperability between the two navies for a secure Indo-Pacific.

Our focus has always been to bring the best of Boeing to India and take the best of India to the world. And we are investing in partnerships and talent to contribute to the vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Our large and growing network of 275+ Indian supplier partners manufactures critical systems and components that go into some of Boeing’s most advanced aircraft. Through the past year we have continued to add new suppliers, including several Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), as part of our commitment to an Aatmanirbhar Bharat in aerospace and defence.

We are confident about the long-term growth potential of India’s defence sector and are committed to supporting and enabling its progress.


Ties between India and the US have grown stronger in the past few years. How does this play in defence cooperation between both nations?

India and the US have made landmark progress to bolster strategic and defence ties; from the designation of ‘Major Defence Partner’ to holding ‘2+2 dialogues’ and bilateral and multilateral security dialogues and military exercises. The defence cooperation environment between the two governments has changed considerably in the past few years and there’s increased cooperation in joint military exercises, technology transfers, collaboration through co-production, and the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) for developing and sustaining dialogue between Indian and US industry on defence technology and industrial cooperation.

In fact, these ties are significantly contributing to an even closer defence and security partnership between the two countries. Foundational bilateral agreements, such as the Industrial Security Annex (ISA), COMCASA are all cementing the US-India strategic relationship in a solid legislative framework.

Today, India is the 8th largest trading partner of the US, and trade volume stands at USD113 billion. India’s economic needs go hand-in-hand with a desire for trade autonomy, which is provided by a capable and modernised military that supports peace, stability, and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region. This is another point of convergence for India and the United States as the two countries are increasingly committed to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.


There is a growing demand for self-reliance in defence manufacturing. What role does Boeing see for itself in the quest to achieving greater localisation of armed platforms in India especially under Atmanirbhar Bharat?

Boeing has always supported the development of indigenous aerospace and defence capabilities in India and has through the years invested in partnerships with the Indian aerospace ecosystem in skilling, research and technology, and manufacturing. Our growing partnership with the country’s defence forces and our expanding supplier base makes it imperative for us invest in, develop, and nurture talent.

Our sourcing from India stands at USD1 billion a year from 275+ suppliers who are part of the global supply chain. We are working closely with our suppliers in India to support supply chain health, identify new ways to drive innovation, and deliver greater value to our customers. Boeing continues to grow a globally competitive supplier base in India, with strong partnerships that are aligned with the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat vision.

Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited (TBAL), Boeing’s joint venture with Tata, is an example of our strategic focus on Make in India. Our efforts in TBAL align not just with the mission of Make in India but with the Prime Minister’s call for ‘Make in India, for the World’. We say this because the Apache fuselages made in this facility in Hyderabad are meant for not just the six Apaches that the Indian Army is on contract with Boeing for, but also Apaches for customers around the world, including the US Army.

In 2021, we launched the 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 a one of its kind initiatives that seeks to provide customers with best-in-class solutions, efficient turnaround times, and optimal economic value, all available in-country. Partnership is Boeing’s key to success, and we believe it makes more sense to partner with local MROs that are already established and have great capabilities.

We are also working with Indian companies to develop capabilities in the country so they can perform maintenance locally, including heavy checks and supply of indigenous equipment. Air Works Group, in partnership with Boeing, successfully completed heavy maintenance checks on the Indian Navy’s P-8Is. Further capability development planning is in the works to support the growing P-8I fleet, improving the local aviation ecosystem while ensuring quicker turnaround for the Indian Navy.


Can you talk about your engineering centre in India and how is it helping in capacity building?

Boeing India Engineering & Technology Centre (BIETC) in Bengaluru and Chennai is leveraging a talented pool of employees for innovation in aerospace. Our engineers in India undertake high-quality, advanced aerospace work spanning engineering design of structures and systems, manufacturing support, developing systems to test our airplanes and providing digital solutions to our airline customers.

Cutting-edge research and development work in traditional and emerging areas is also done at BIETC, including next-generation Airplane Health Management (AHM), environment-friendly coatings, advanced networks and secure-communications, where teams leverage new-age technologies to replace traditional approaches, enhancing safety and productivity across Boeing platforms.

The Boeing India engineering design teams collaborate with our R&D teams globally to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) methods and in the process, result in a significant reduction in time taken for tasks, and also enhancing quality. Digital aviation efforts are also helping airlines reduce fuel consumption through route optimization, and make effective utilization of their crew. Digital engineering is being used to enhance the manufacturing environment and provide value to customers. Digital threading is being used to create a digital twin before manufacturing aircraft systems, resulting in fewer manufacturing issues. This drives efficiency, optimises product design, and enhances manufacturability, making the end-to-end supply chain more digital.

The Boeing Research & Technology team in India has delivered commercially viable solutions for AHM and Air Traffic Management (ATM). Its ATM experts are currently working with the Airports Authority of India to develop a roadmap for air traffic management modernization in the country. Today, the research centre is using AI and ML to continue to improve the wide-body airplanes that Boeing delivers. Using Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies, its engineers are finding ways to improve passenger experience during air travel.


Please provide an update on the trials performed by F/A18 EF Super Hornet aircraft for the Indian Navy?

Boeing and the US Navy have proven through the ski-jump trials in December 2020 at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD, that the F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III can operate successfully from a ski jump ramp, demonstrating the aircraft’s suitability for IN’s aircraft carriers. Furthermore, Boeing has also conducted exhaustive studies over the last couple of years that demonstrate that the Block III is fully compatible with all aspects of the IN carriers.

We are engaging with the IN on their requirements and have responded to the Request for Information for the MRCBF programme. The F/A-18 Super Hornet Block III on offer to the IN is the world’s most advanced, combat proven, multi-role frontline naval fighter that will offer unique and differentiated capabilities and full compatibility with the IN carriers.


Boeing has a strong portfolio of suppliers in India. What are your plans with them in the near future?

Boeing is currently working with more than 275 suppliers in the country and that number continues to grow. Boeing’s industrial partners in India are raising the bar to deliver world-class quality, cost-efficiency, and productivity, as they become an important part of the company’s supply chain for some of the most advanced platforms in the world.

There are several examples where our Indian partners are global suppliers of critical parts on Boeing’s defence airplanes. We are developing MSMEs in support of our commitment to Aatmanirbhar Bharat. In fact, 26 per cent of our suppliers from India are MSMEs. For example:

  • Dynamatic Technologies manufactures the ramp and complex aft pylon for Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. Dynamatic Technologies was recently awarded a contract for manufacturing assemblies for Boeing’s newest tactical fighter, F-15EX Eagle II. This is a first where aerostructures for the latest and most advanced F-15EX Eagle II will be made in India.
  • Rossell Techsys manufactures wire harness and electrical panel for the AH-64 Apache, and the harness for several defence platforms including CH-47 Chinook, F-15 and F/A-18 Super Hornet.
  • Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) manufactures IFF (Identify Friend/Foe) and speech secrecy system for the P-8.
  • SASMOS HET Technologies manufactures electrical panel assemblies for the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15 Strike Eagle

We are continuously investing in local capacity-building as well as collaborations with Indian organisations across manufacturing, infrastructure, engineering services, research and technology, training, and skills development. These collaborative programmes are developing the skilled and trained workforce in India needed to build an ecosystem conducive to business success. Our Indian suppliers are our partners in the journey towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat and in making India a key hub for aerospace and defence manufacturing for the world.



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