Boosting the Indian Defence Ecosystem

With the focus on F/A-18 Block III, F-15EX fighter solutions, the P-8I deliveries and Apache manufacturing, Boeing highlights advancements with the Indian Armed forces

Issue: Aero India 2021 SpecialBy Ayushee ChaudharyPhoto(s): By Boeing
(Left to right): Salil Gupte, President, Boeing India, Vice President, Boeing International; Surendra Ahuja, Managing Director, Boeing Defence India; Michael Koch, Vice President, Boeing Defence, Space & Security, India; Ankur Kanaglekar, Director, India Fighters Lead, Boeing Defense, Space & Security

Reiterating its commitment towards not just ‘Make in India’ For India but also Make In India For the World, ahead of Aero India 2021, Boeing underlined the growth it expects for the aerospace and defence industry in India.

One highlight in the India’s defence ecosystem is the F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet being offered to the India Navy. Stated to be one of the most advanced multirole frontline fighter of the US Navy, the aircraft recently accomplished a successful launch from the ski-jump ramp at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland which is a significant validation to demonstrate the Super Hornet’s suitability for the Indian aircraft carrier. “Unlike the US Navy, the Indian Navy uses Short Takeoff but Arrested Recovery (STOBAR) system and it was important to prove that the Super Hornet is compatible for this,” stated Ankur Kanaglekar, Head India Fighters Sales, Boeing Defence, Space and Security.

The Block III variant is expected to provide several unique advantages to the Indian Navy. Being offered as two carrier compatible variants, it will allow the Indian Navy to execute missions from the carrier that benefits from having a second crew. The Super Hornet would also act as a lynchpin of the naval aviation collaboration between the US Navy and the Indian Navy that will improve interoperability between the two navies. It will also interface with P-8I aircraft and other assets of US origin to act as a force multiplier for the Indian Navy.

“We are offering the Super Hornet in a two-seater, i.e. F variant and a single-seater i.e. E variant, both of which are carrier compatible which will allow the Indian Navy to execute mission from the carrier that benefits from having a second crew. Most importantly the Indian Navy would be able to integrate technology related man-unmanned interface with two-seater Super Hornet on its aircraft carrier. The two-seater variant is also additionally a trainer that will ensure Indian Navy’s assets are never under-utilised,” added Kanaglekar.

Boeing has also received approval from the US government to offer F-15EX fighter to the Indian Air Force (IAF). F-15EX is said to be the latest and most advanced version of the combatproven, multi-role, all-weather day/night F-15 aircraft family. Boeing believes that the F-15EX can offer a future-ready, multirole solution to the Indian Air Force in the form of unmatched payload, performance, and persistence by integrating leading edge technologies, networks, and weapons and sensors. Proposals to procure over a hundred fighters are being evaluated by the IAF. Boeing is looking forward to working closely with IAF. The F-15EX for India would be coming in single and two seater aircraft configuration, featuring an advanced cockpit system with AESA radar, fly by wire flight control and the capability to carry up to 22 missiles which is, “more weapons than any other fighter in its class”. The upgraded cockpit also offers a 10W profile head up display, 10x19 large area display areas and the digital joint helmet mounted cueing system that “allows faster digital processing and comes with night vision aids that makes way for some game-changing situational awareness”.

In July 2020, the US Air Force (USAF) awarded Boeing an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract with a ceiling value of nearly $23 billion. The contract includes option for up to 200 jets, with the USAF projecting to buy at least 144 F-15EX aircraft.The F-15EX for the US Air Force is progressing toward delivery of the first two jets before the end of March. The F-15 has been a legacy platform for the past 4 decades. The F-15EX is a future-ready, multi-role solution in the form of unmatched payload, performance, and persistence by integrating leading edge technologies, networks, weapons and sensors and is expected to be relevant and contemporary for the next 30-40 years.

To ensure mission readiness, “we are also in the process of delivering three P-8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft to the Navy this year. The Indian Navy is utilising the P-8Is at a higher rate than the US Navy. Since induction, the Indian Navy has surpassed 29,000 flying hours already and the interim support agreement significantly increasing the aircraft availability,” said Surendra Ahuja, Managing Director, Boeing Defence India. India is the largest and first international customer for P-8I aircraft.

Boeing F-15EX fighter aircraft

The Indian Navy had already received the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) from the Defence Ministry in 2019 to procure six additional P-8Is and discussions are on with the US government. India has the second highest fleet of the aircraft globally. Further, a 60,000 sq. ft. Training Support and Data Handling Centre is being set up at INS Rajali, Arakkonam (the base for P8-I fleet), with a secondary centre at Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology (NIAT), Kochi.

Apart from these, Michael Koch, Vice President, Boeing Defence, Space & Security, India, also informed that six AH-64 Apache attack helicopters for the Indian Army will start manufacturing in India this year at the Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited facility in Hyderabad which is Boeing’s joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems Limited. Initially, a contract for twenty-two AH-64 Apaches from Boeing was signed for the IAF and later the optional clause was exercised for six more for the Indian Army, with the deal being signed early last year.

Boeing completed the deliveries of all 22 AH-64E Apache helicopters to the Indian Air Force in 2020 and India and the US signed the contract for the acquisition of six Apaches for the Indian Army the same year.

The facility has been producing aero-structures for Boeing’s AH-64 Apache helicopter, including fuselages, secondary structures, and vertical spar boxes for international customers. The six Apaches for the Indian Army will be built at the state-of-theart TBAL manufacturing facility right here in India.

Koch also highlighted KC-46 as the tanker for the future being “right-sized and purpose built”. “The KC-46 can operate from more than 100 additional airports in India than the competing products. It is not oversized but right-sized, comes with an international design, less maintenance, less fuel burn, is smaller in size but has more capacity,” he added.

Boeing also announced the launch of Boeing India Repair Development and Sustainment (BIRDS) hub initiative to integrate India services strategy. While sharing its 2021 growth strategy for the Indian market, Boeing noted that it will feature advanced defence and commercial capabilities at Aero India 2021. The BIRDS hub initiative envisions a competitive MRO ecosystem for engineering, maintenance, skilling, repair and sustainment services of defence and commercial aircraft in India, as part of its commitment to supporting and strengthening indigenous aerospace and defence capabilities in the country. The initiative will also focus on skill development programmes that will help suppliers develop capabilities and gain experience across Boeing platforms.

“India’s aerospace industry is persevering through the global pandemic, which has brought significant challenges. The nation’s fundamental growth drivers remain resilient and robust, making India an attractive business destination globally, and Boeing is committed to the advancement of India’s aerospace industry,” said Salil Gupte, President, Boeing India.

Boeing plans to hold discussions with customers and industry partners about its range of capabilities in multi-role fighter aircraft, vertical lift platforms, aerial multi-role tankers, unmanned systems and commercial platforms, in addition to technologies, services, world-class sustainment and training capabilities at the exhibition. Boeing’s exhibit, themed “Building The Future Together”, aims to focus on its partnerships with India’s armed forces and highlight the strategic investments the company has made to develop India’s indigenous aerospace and defence ecosystem. At the exhibit, Boeing will feature a range of advanced capabilities including the F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet, F-15EX, KC-46A, AH-64E Apache, P-8I, Chinook, 737-10 and 787-9.