U.S. aircraft maker Boeing will partner with India’s state-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) and Mahindra Defence Systems for its bid to sell 110 fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force (IAF), the company said in a statement on April 12.
Boeing and its local partners are ready to set up an “entirely new and state-of-the-art production facility,” which would provide the “infrastructure, personnel training, operational tools and techniques” necessary to support the local production of its F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft, according to the press release.
The new facility Boeing says could also be used to support other Indian defense projects such as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
The IAF issued a long-awaited request for information (RFI) to global vendors for the procurement of 110 fighter aircraft on April 6. The tender is open for single-engine and twin-engine fighter aircraft. (The new RFI replaces an October 2016 RFI for a new single-engine fighter aircraft.) As I explained earlier this week:
According to the RFI, the IAF is seeking to procure 82-83 (75 percent) single-seat fighter jets and 27-28 twin-seat variants (25 percent). Out of the 110 aircraft, 16-17 (15 percent) are to be bought in fly-away condition, whereas the rest are to be built in India under the framework of the Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD) Defense Procurement Procedure 2016 to facilitate the manufacturing of military hardware locally.
Boeing was outbid in 2011 under the $20 billion MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) project by French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation and its Rafale fighter jet. However, the MMRCA project was cancelled in July 2015 and the IAF decided to procure 36 off-the-shelf Dassault Rafale fighter jets instead in September 2016.
“Boeing is excited to team up with India’s only company that manufactures combat fighters, HAL, and Indian company that manufactures small commercial airplanes, Mahindra,” said Boeing India president Pratyush Kumar this week.
“This partnership brings the best of Indian public and private enterprises together in partnership with the world’s largest aerospace company, Boeing, to accelerate a contemporary 21st century ecosystem for aerospace and defense manufacturing in India”
In addition to the April 2018 tender for 110 land-based fighter jets, Boeing is also interested in pitching its carrier capable F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet to the Indian Navy (IN). The IN intends to procure 57 new carrier-based multirole fighters for its new Vikrant-class aircraft carriers.
Boeing will face stiff competition in its bid. “Lockheed Martin and the Indian defense firm Tata Advanced Systems Limited agreed to set up a joint production facility for F-16 Block 70 fighter jets in India last June,” I reported earlier this week. “In 2017, Saab also pledged to set up its own aircraft assembly line in India should its Gripen-E aircraft be selected.”
The Eurofighter consortium and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation are also expected to participate in the competitive bidding process.