Boeing says it has hands full with Indian defence deals

April 21st, 2011 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

F-16 New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) US aerospace major Boeing is anticipating Indian defence orders worth $14 billion, with a company official saying its hands are “pretty full” with orders for fighters and choppers for the air force and reconnaissance planes for the navy.

Apart from being in contention for the $10.4 billion contract for 126 combat planes for the Indian Air Force (IAF), Boeing is a hot contender in the $650-million tender for 22 attack helicopters and a $700-million bid for 15 heavy-lift cargo helicopters.

The firm will also offer a ‘diet’ version of its P8 Poseidon plane for the Indian Navy’s requirement of a medium-range maritime reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft when the tenders are issued. Though there is no mention of the number of MRMR aircraft required in the present request for information, it is likely to be around 10 planes worth $2 billion.

Boeing has already bagged a $170-million order, through the US’ foreign military sales route, to supply 24 units of Harpoon Block-II anti-ship missiles for the IAF’s maritime-strike Jaguar fighter jets.

“Our hands are pretty full. There’s lots going on,” Christopher M. Chadwick, president of Boeing Military Aircraft, told IANS in an interview here.

Boeing has pitted its F/A-18 in the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal against US firm Lockheed Martin’s F-16, Russian United Aircraft Corporation’s MiG-35, French Dassault’s Rafale, European consortium EADS’ Eurofighter Typhoon and Swedish SAAB’s Gripen.

The likely winner of the MMRCA contract is expected to be known in a month or two, with the deal being signed before March 2012.

“We are really excited about the opportunity that still exists in MMRCA. In the months that have gone by in the competition, we have a viable offering, because the F/A-18 Super Hornet provides the right capability at the right cost with fairly low risk. In addition it gives the right life cycle cost,” said Chadwick, who was here to review his company’s campaigns for these deals.

He said Boeing had worked “closely” with its Indian industry partners, particularly with the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, “not just to provide work but also to enhance their abilities” by holding classes and programmes in management and manufacturing.

If India chose F/A-18 in the MMRCA contest, Chadwick said, Boeing was willing to offer the “rapid production concept” that will allow accelerated delivery of the planes into the IAF force structure to “alleviate some of the challenges” that it has had lately.

The company too has offered an offset plan for four additional P8I maritime patrol planes, which India is keen to buy as a follow-on for the eight ordered in January 2009 for $2.1 billion.

Asked for details of the offset offers Boeing has made, Chadwick said he would not be able to share them now. “What we can do is once we have an offset project and once it is implemented, we can come out and discuss it,” he said.

The four P8Is will be worth $1 billion and considering the 30 percent offsets (proportion of the order value to be invested in the domestic industry of the buyer) clause in the contract, it would fetch India about $300 million worth of investments from Boeing.

Chadwick said Boeing has had “a pretty good” track record of fulfilling offsets obligation worth $32 billion over the years, achieving them “on cost and on schedule.”

On the MRMR aircraft, he said Boeing was waiting to see what the final tender contents would be. “Certainly, P8 (version) might be an option,” he added.

Boeing’s AH64 D Apache and Chinook CH-47 are in competition against Russian Mil’s Mi-28NE and Mi-26 in the attack and heavy-lift helicopters tenders respectively. “Should have those (two tenders) hopefully in the next six months,” Chadwick said.

With the defence ministry being allocated Rs.69,199 crore ($15 billion) for capital expenditure in India’s annual budget, there are clear indications that the attack and heavy-lift helicopters procurement will happen this fiscal.

(N.C. Bipindra can be contacted at nc.bipindra@ians.in)

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