Chairman says campaign to meet more requirements for Indian Air Force fighter planes possible soon
US aerospace major Boeing Company is looking at setting up a helicopter assembly line in India, said a top official of the company in New Delhi on Friday.
Boeing chairman James McNerney said at the ‘India’s Time To Fly’ summit, organised by Boeing and IIT-Bombay, that the aircraft manufacturer was evaluating assembling one of two helicopters — the Apache combat helicopter or the Chinook heavy-lift chopper — in India.
He also said that he believed there could soon be a campaign to meet more requirements for fighter planes of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and that Boeing’s offer would include a ‘Make in India’ plan for those combat planes. “There will be a fighter plane campaign in this country over the next couple of years. Our approach is going to be to take a current, state-of-the-art fighter and bid. The quantities are uncertain, but the numbers are going to be significant. Our bid will include a proposal to make the plane here,” McNerney said at the Boeing Summit.
India has recently placed an order with Boeing for 22 Apache combat helicopters and 15 Chinook CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters. Currently, the beams, or the spines, of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft are being made in a Nagpur facility.
“We can play at the centre of ‘Make-in-India’ keeping in line with Boeing’s global product strategy. We want design and make in India for India and the world. India is now better poised to make investments for us after the new government has come in,” McNerney said.
“Boeing sees a lot of opportunity and capability in India and wants to help it scale up its economy. India will give us business and we in turn will provide technology and know-how by collaborating with the partners in the country, including the government,” McNerney said.
The chairman said the reason for doing more business in India was because the country was a natural ally. “India is a big market and after the civil nuclear deal, governments of both countries can now decide on more levels of cooperation in the fields of defence and aerospace technology,” he added.
According to the company chairman, “Under the new leadership, the country is moving towards the manufacturing dream. The efforts of changing the tax regime and working towards speedy dispute resolution are some of the things that this government is working on and it is an encouraging feeling.”
To a question on aerospace manufacturing, McNerney said the company was looking at developing skills in India by participating in the Skills India mission. “Manufacturing is a closer reality in India than most people think. We will be soon evaluating making aircraft parts like wings and fuselage here.” he said.
He added that the country will buy nearly 1,800 civil aircraft over the next 20 years which will call for a huge investment.
“Boeing sees this market as a civil aviation opportunity as conversion of only 1% of people travelling in trains to aviation can double the market size here. We are also looking at producing more fuel-efficient, green and longer-flying-capable planes to bring down the cost of flying to attract more customers,” McNerney said. He also said that the company has closed more defence deals with India than the whole of the US defence industry combined in the last 50 years.
The chairman also said that the company had stopped production of the heavy-lift transport aircraft C-17 Globemaster. The announcement comes at a time when the Indian government required three more Globemaster planes. The Boeing C-17 Globemaster is a large military transport aircraft.
“We have only one C-17 with us. Of course, there are buying opportunities in the used market and the model will stay in the market for another 20 to 30 years,” the chairman said. India has signed a deal for 10 C-17 Globemaster aircraft with an option for buying six more. The deal was estimated at $4.1 billion.