Sunday, July 14, 2024

Boeing Committed To Bolster Indian Aerospace & Defence Industry

By Kamal Shah

At the Farnborough International Air Show 2022, Boeing leaders discussed the opportunities for building the capacity and capability of the Indian aerospace and defence sector. Boeing has been a trusted partner of India’s aerospace sector for more than 75 years, both as the mainstay of India’s growing commercial aviation sector and has been focused on the modernisation and mission readiness of the country’s defence forces more recently. 

Boeing leaders Maria Laine, Salil Gupte, Heidi Grant & Randy Rotte addressing a Farnborough Airshow briefing

Salil Gupte, President, Boeing India, spoke about the country’s evolving civil and defence aerospace sector and how the company intends to facilitate this growth: “India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and offers enormous growth and productivity opportunities. As a company with over seven decades of presence in India, Boeing continues to support the development of indigenous aerospace and defence capabilities in the country. India’s defence sector is poised for growth, and Boeing is committed to supporting and enabling this progress.”

“Boeing’s sourcing from India stands at $1 billion annually through its large and growing network of 280+ supplier partners – an integral part of our global supply base. These Indian companies are manufacturing and exporting systems and components for some of Boeing’s most advanced products from India to the world. We will continue to grow a globally competitive supplier base in India, with strong partnerships aligned with the government’s vision of an Aatmanirbhar Bharat,” Mr Gupte said about the company’s presence in India and how it aligns with the government’s Make-in-India policy. 

Speaking about how the company acts as a growth partner to India’s promising aerospace & defence sector and human resource capabilities, the Boeing India President shared: “Our investments in India are creating jobs and bolstering India’s manufacturing sector. We have, through the years, invested in partnerships with players in the Indian aerospace ecosystem in diverse areas, including skilling, research & technology, and manufacturing. At the Boeing India Engineering & Technology Center (BIETC), our 3,000+ diverse engineering workforce contributes to the global aerospace growth by delivering cutting-edge R&D, innovation, and high-quality engineering work to support Boeing’s defence, space, and commercial businesses.”

“Our teams in India are committed to delivering safe products and services to serve our global customers. We are a One Boeing team working together to drive the future of aerospace in India. We are committed to flawless execution on our current programs and supporting India with their future defence needs,” he added before going on to say, “Boeing’s ‘For India – By India’ sustainment program builds on the company’s nearly eight decades of history in the country, leveraging existing programs, growing supply chain capabilities and partnering with the local industry.”

Heidi Grant, President, Business Development, Defense, Space & Security, Global Services, shared her views: “Boeing remains committed to doing all we can to help the world continue to weather the pandemic safely. As we emerge from the pandemic, we’re taking the time to really listen to our global customers’ needs and have refreshed our business strategy to adapt”.

Speaking about advancing bilateral ties between India and the United States of America, she opined: “It’s been amazing to witness the fundamental, transformational shift over the last 15 years in the US-India bilateral relationship that has grown from strength to strength driven by the increasing convergence of American and Indian defence interests for a peaceful, stable and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. Both countries have made landmark progress on strategic defence ties, from holding bilateral and multilateral security dialogues and military exercises to advancing technology transfer and India being a major defence partner to the US.” 

“Boeing has been providing the right products and services to help India while also building a strong and resilient aerospace and defence supply chain in the country. Achieving that balance will be critical to readiness and the ability to respond to security challenges,” she asserted. “The investments Boeing has made in India with its supply chain is also critical for us as an OEM. It helps us mitigate against disruptions that we saw globally during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine conflict,” she highlighted before going on to say, “Boeing remains committed to supporting its customers on existing defence programs such as C-17, P-8I, AH-64 Apache, CH-47 Chinook and Harpoons and also having conversations about future capabilities and requirements for the Indian armed forces.”

Boeing P8I in flight

Maria Laine, Vice President, International Business Development, Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Global Services shared that India is one of the largest defence markets for Boeing and Boeing plays an essential role in the mission readiness and modernisation of India’s defence forces. “When we talk about Boeing and India, we are talking about several firsts. India was the first international customer for P-8I aircraft to the Indian Navy, now operating 12 aircraft. India is the largest international operator of C-17s outside the US, with 11 aircraft in operation. The Harpoon missile was the first weapon system integrated into an Indian-designed and built fighter (Jaguar). The Indian Air Force also operates the AH-64 Apache advanced attack helicopter and the CH-47 Chinook heavy lift helicopter,” Laine elaborated on the company’s association with India’s military ecosystem.

“We’re seeing increased maritime security in the context of the military-to-military relationship that has significant potential now and in the future. Efforts such as the utilisation of the P-8I fleet for missions in the Indian Ocean region and strong potential for Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet for the Multi-Role Carrier Borne Fighter requirement could further maritime cooperation between the two countries and further advance the security agenda,” she said talking about India’s increasing maritime consciousness and where Boeing can feature as part of it. 

“With sales of our platforms comes our commitment to services. Through Boeing Defence India, Boeing is delivering services that ensure the high availability of our customers’ fleets at competitive costs. We work with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy to provide operational capability and readiness for Boeing aircraft such as the P-8I, C-17, Apache, Chinook and the Head of State aircraft, and those rates have been exceptionally high. Another area of our Services commitment is the investments we’ve made in infrastructure, the build-up of a local capability, the workforce and local partnerships that are all accelerating our strategy to provide life-cycle value to our customers in India,” she said before signing off.

Randy Rotte, Senior Director, India, Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia, spoke about a multitude of topics starting from Boeing’s commitment to defence modernisation: “We are continually in discussion with our customers in India to understand their requirements and to see how we can meet them with Boeing’s advanced portfolio of products and services. In terms of future capabilities, we anticipate a need for fighters, military helicopters, mobility and tankers, and ISR capability in maritime surveillance and maritime domain awareness as the armed forces modernise their fleets.” 

Speaking about the company delivering on its commitments, Mr Rotte said, “What has been well documented is Boeing’s commitment to delivering on its promises – the platforms being operated by the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force have experienced high mission readiness and availability rates, thanks to our sustainment and training focus. Strengthening and continuing to invest in these services’ capabilities will be very important to Boeing in the future as well. Around the world, we also do this through our robust portfolio of services capabilities, including digital solutions, combining data analysis with engineering expertise, Performance Based Logistics, and other solutions.”

Specifically highlighting details about the F/A-18 Super Hornet he said, “We’re pleased with the performance of our F/A-18 Super Hornets that participated in carrier test flights in May and June in Goa. We demonstrated the Super Hornet’s ability to meet or exceed the test requirements to operate from a STOBAR aircraft carrier.”  

Super Hornet ski-jump top view

“With the F/A-18, the Indian Navy will get a proven, multi-role and carrier-compatible fighter while benefiting from the investments, upgrades and knowledge from the US Navy’s extensive naval aviation ecosystem. The US Navy operates more than 800 Super Hornets and EA-18 Growlers, the electronic attack version of the F/A-18. The F/A-18 Super Hornet was specifically designed from its inception for carrier operations, can operate from the Indian Navy aircraft carriers and will meet or exceed the STOBAR performance requirements of the Indian Navy. The Super Hornet’s Block III configuration is suited to protect India’s maritime interests. We anticipate the Super Hornet and P-8I opening up opportunities for greater interoperability between the two navies for a secure Indo-Pacific,” he added before going on to say, “The diversity and strength of Boeing’s full Hornet Industry Team, including General Electric, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, has the potential to provide significant benefits to Indian industry.”

Sharing his views on the Government of India’s Make-in-India policy, Mr Rotte said, “Boeing has more than 280 suppliers from India that are part of the global supply chain and are manufacturing critical systems and components that go into some of Boeing’s most advanced aircraft, including the FA-18, F-15EX, P-8, CH-47 Chinook, AH-64 Apache, T-7 and V-22. Today Boeing sources parts, assemblies and services from Indian suppliers to support the full life-cycle of aircraft, including aerostructures, composites, machined parts and assemblies, wire harnesses, cockpit panels, aluminium raw materials, forgings, avionics, mission systems, mechanical and electrical standard parts, tooling and ground support equipment.” 

Super Hornet ski-jump

“Specifically, on F/A-18, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) provides the gun bay doors, and Rossell Techsys provides wire harnesses. Additionally, the F/A-18 work packages are also potentially available for transfer. Boeing is reviewing over several hundred other machined assemblies that could be placed with the appropriate Indian suppliers. The diversity and strength of Boeing’s full Hornet Industry Team (HIT), including General Electric, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, has the potential to provide significant benefits to Indian industry,” he explained.

The P-8I and a potential MQ-25 offering had been discussed in a previous briefing at the airshow. Mr Rotte elaborated further on these possible developments, saying, “The P-8I, on the other hand, caters to the need for long-range maritime surveillance and ASW requirements in the Indian Ocean Region. The Indian Navy has shared its intent to procure more P-8I to address this need beyond its fleet of 12 aircraft. The P-8Is are performing very well and extensively used by the Navy.” 

He explained, “With India, the US and Australia navies operating P-8s (140+ P-8s in service globally; 400,000+ flight-hours), there are opportunities for interoperability as part of Quad. In addition, India’s P-8I buy has resulted in significant industrial benefits and jobs for aerospace and defence companies in India that are now part of the Boeing supply chain manufacturing complex parts and components for BDS products, including the P-8I MRO. India also has air refuelling requirements, and the tankers are a capability builder for the Indian armed forces.” 

“We see the tankers as a capability of interest for India. India has air refuelling requirements, and we hope that India will be one of those countries that seriously consider Boeing’s tanker solutions,” Mr Rotte shared his take on the scope for the procurement of tankers before signing off. 

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