“We are excited about our ‘By India-For India’ proposal for the F/A-18 Super Hornets Block III, that will develop the depth and breadth of specific capabilities to sustain the aircraft from India.” Surendra Ahuja, Managing Director, Boeing Defence India speaks exclusively to SP’s Aviation
SP’s Aviation (SP’s): Can you take us through your journey in India, till date, based on collaborations for – C-17, P-8I, Apache and Chinook?
Surendra Ahuja (Ahuja): India is one of the world’s fastest growing defence markets, and Boeing has had a presence in the country for over 75 years now. I’ve been privileged to be a part of this journey that has seen several milestones in the last year alone.
Our proven portfolio of products and services offer unmatched operational capabilities across the entire mission spectrum, and has made us a strong partner in the mission readiness and modernisation of India’s defence forces. Today, India has 11 C-17 Globemaster IIIs, eight P-8Is (with four more on order), 22 AH-64E Apaches (with six more on order) and 15 CH-47F(I) Chinooks.
The Indian Air Force inducted their first Chinook and Apache helicopters in 2019 and we recently completed all deliveries, 15 Chinooks and 22 Apaches. We also delivered the 11th C-17 Globemaster in 2019. We also modified and delivered two 777-300ER aircraft that will serve as India’s Head of State aircraft.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence signed the contract for the acquisition of six Apaches for the Indian Army. In line with our commitment to bringing the best of Boeing to India and ‘Make in India’, the Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited facility has been producing aero-structures for Boeing’s AH-64 Apache helicopter for the US Army and international customers. This also speaks volumes about India’s indigenous manufacturing and technology capabilities.
Boeing is also providing pilot training for the Indian Air Force fleet of the C-17 aircraft while construction is underway in another facility for training Indian Navy pilots on the P-8I. The Indian Navy has been flying the P-8I extensively on various missions. India’s P-8I fleet is supported through Boeing’s services business by providing performance-based logistics, spares, ground support equipment, as well as field service representative and on-site engineering support. The C-17 simulator training center in Gurgaon has completed thousands of training hours for aircrews and loadmasters. These are significant milestones and it is very gratifying to be a part of this journey together with 3,500 of my colleagues who are shaping Boeing’s legacy in India.
“Our sourcing from India stands at close to $1 billion a year from 225 suppliers who are manufacturing critical systems and components for some of Boeing’s most advanced products. Boeing continues to grow a globally competitive supplier base in India, with strong partnerships that are aligned with the government’s AatmaNirbhar Bharat vision.”
SP’s: Government of India has introduced a few initiatives such as - Make in India, Skill Development, AatmaNirbhar Bharat (Self-Reliant India). How does Boeing plan to align its activities with these initiatives?
Ahuja: Boeing has always supported the development of indigenous aerospace and defence capabilities in India and through our 75 years presence in the country we have invested in partnerships with the Indian aerospace ecosystem in skilling, research & 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 close to $1 billion a year from 225 suppliers who are manufacturing critical systems and components for some of Boeing’s most advanced products. 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 Advanced Systems Limited, is an example of Boeing’s strategic focus on ‘Make in India’ and marks a major step towards the co-development of integrated systems in aerospace and defence in India. Our efforts in TBAL align not just with the government’s mission Make in India but with the Prime Minister’s call of Make in India, for the World - the call that he made during the DefExpo in Lucknow in February 2020. I say this because the Apache fuselages made in this facility in Hyderabad are indeed meant for not just the six Apaches that the Indian Army is on contract with Boeing for but also for the Apaches for customers around the world, including the US Army.
We are also collaborating with Indian companies to develop capabilities in the country so that they can perform maintenance locally, including heavy checks and supply of indigenous equipment. Air Works India, in partnership with Boeing, completed the first heavy maintenance check for the first P-8I in 2019. Further capability development planning is in the works to support the growing P-8I fleet, improving the local aviation ecosystem while ensuring quicker and more affordable turnaround for the Indian Navy.
The Boeing India Engineering & Technology Center (BIETC), with a strong presence in Bengaluru and Chennai, is leveraging a talented pool of employees to contribute to global aerospace and defence growth. Our engineers in India undertake high-quality, advanced aerospace work that supports areas as diverse as test and evaluation; development of advanced, environmentally friendly coatings; data analytics for next-generation airplane health management; innovation on Internet of Things and Digital Transformation; and development of software tools that enable airlines to improve their operations, and work with airports to enable de-congestion and navigation at reduced costs.
Additionally, our various initiatives focused on skill development are training hundreds of pilots, aircraft maintenance engineers, technicians and frontline factory workers and creating a robust aerospace and defence ecosystem in India.
SP’s: The Indian Armed Forces expect the selected OEMs (for some of their key modernisation programmes) to comply with the Transfer of Technology and Make in India. What is the perspective of Boeing on this front?
Ahuja: 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 multi-lateral security dialogues and military exercises. The defence cooperation environment between the two governments have changed considerably in the past few years and there’s increased cooperation in joint military exercises, technology transfers, collaboration through co-production, and Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) for developing and sustaining dialogue between Indian and US industry on defence technology and industrial cooperation. The recently signed agreement on Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) is a significant step toward contributing to an even closer defence and security partnership between the two countries.
We are excited about our ‘By India-For India’ proposal for the F/A-18 Super Hornets Block III, that will build on Boeing’s existing and on-going successful sustainment programs for the Indian Navy and will develop the depth and breadth of specific capabilities to sustain the aircraft from India, in partnership with the Indian Navy, US based suppliers and Indian partners. This will not only improve aircraft availability and affordability for the Indian Navy but will also build expertise in the Indian supply chain to sustain F/A-18 Super Hornets from India.