Boeing, the American defence and aerospace major, has signed an agreement with Mahindra Defence Land Systems and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to develop the F/A 18 Super Hornet aircraft under the ‘Make in India’ initiative. The decision comes on the sidelines of Defence Expo 2018 that is being held in Chennai. Addressing the media, Dan Gillian, Vice President of F/A-18 program, Boeing, said that the F/A-18 Super Hornet program at Boeing wanted to build a deeper, capable aerospace supply chain and also develop on the 160+ suppliers that the company already has.
“This partnership is likely to change India’s aerospace and defence ecosystem”, Gillian added. He also said that the partnership between Boeing, HAL and Mahindra will bring the best of defence partnership in India. The Super Hornet Make in India initiative aims to build the new state of the art production facility that can be utilised for India’s AMCA program as well.
T Suvarna Raju, Chairman and Managing Director of HAL also said that the partnership with Boeing and Mahindra would further bolster ties between indigenous aerospace industries and other foreign defence firms. “This is a great opportunity for us to develop our capabilities and also a great feat to take forward the Make in India initiative”, he added.
“We are one of the largest private sector defence companies in India. We wish to support our defence forces by modernising weapon systems. This partnership will help us achieve higher goals in the defence and aerospace sector”, said S P Shukla, Chairman of Mahindra Defence Systems.
The Indian Air Force has finally issued the request for information (RFI) to procure 110 fighter jets. Though Boeing lost out on the 2008 MMRCA tender in 2011, it now sees itself confident in the race again. Pratyush Kumar, President of Boeing India said told the media that the competition now will be based on operational requirements rather than technical specifications.
Until recently, it was just Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Saab AB’s Gripen that were in the race for 100 single-engine jets as per Indian Air Force’s requirements. However, the government recently decided to modify the tender and made the competition open for twin-engined aircraft as well. The F/A-18 Super Hornet is highly efficient tactical twine engine multirole fighter aircraft. It has a maximum speed of 1.6 Mach. It has a payload capacity of 4491 kg. The entry of Boeing after this change makes it a good competitor.
The need for new fighter jets is an imminent requirement. The Air Force has just 32 squadrons of fighters which is lowest in a decade. The Indian Air Force needs at least 42 fighter squadrons to protect threats from Pakistan and China.