Boeing to outsource US fighter jet components to India

April 27th, 2008 - 10:44 am ICT by admin  

By Gulshan Luthra
New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) US civil and defence aerospace major Boeing has decided to outsource two critical components of the F-18 Super Hornet combat aircraft to India and the order for one of them could go to the Tatas. Lt Gen Jeffrey B. Kohler, Boeing vice president for international strategy, told the India Strategic defence magazine that as a “responsible world player in aerospace, Boeing wanted a long-term, trusted partnership with India and that the orders for these two components are being placed now irrespective of whether or not the company wins the tender for 126 Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MRCA).”

Both the components are made with sophisticated composite materials, appropriate technology for which will be transferred to India.

Details are to be given later.

Kohler said that one of these two fighter jet components could be outsourced to the Tatas, with which it had earlier tied up a $500 million agreement for titanium floor beams for the hot-selling new generation Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft that Air India has also ordered.

“The fact that we are going to outsource these components from India, including for the fighter jets that the US Navy will fly all over the world, indicates the trust we are going to place in our Indian partners,” Kohler is quoted as saying by India Strategic magazine in its coming May issue.

The F-18 is one of the six combat jets being considered by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for its MRCA requirement, which could eventually reach 200 aircraft.

Significantly, Kohler said, Boeing could also procure some components for its Apache Combat helicopter and the Heavy Lift Chinook CH 47 helicopter from India. But the viability of those projects is yet to be assessed.

Asked if more F-18 components could also be outsourced from India, he said that if the Super Hornet was chosen by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in the MRCA competition, then it would be a natural progression as the Indian policy mandates transfer of technology and 50 percent offset requirement, which would mean investments in India for indigenous production of some components.

Boeing would facilitate export of these components, for its own use and for others. In this perspective, it was already encouraging its major Original Equipment Suppliers (OEMs) to interact with potential Indian manufacturers.

He pointed out that Boeing had also signed a billion-dollar arrangement with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) recently for outsourcing components and assisting it in acquiring technologies.

Notably, the Indian government is encouraging private industry to play a decisive role in building up the country’s defence industrial base. However, the state-run HAL will be the prime integrator for the aircraft, systems and weapons, irrespective of what is supplied by the foreign and Indian suppliers.

“All these agreements are irrespective of the F-18 deal, and as the Indian industry is maturing, these arrangements would be mutually beneficial,” Kohler said.

So far, whatever was done or being done, was a Boeing initiative to “build trust and partnerships” with India, he said, adding that “besides being the world’s largest aerospace companies with advanced systems in every field, we are also socially and environmentally a responsible company. We will work here in accordance with the Indian laws.”

Asked to comment on doubts being expressed in certain quarters that the US could be an unreliable partner, Kohler, who was earlier director of the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) responsible for building cooperative ties with various countries, said that Washington was offering India unprecedented levels of technology.

“Do you think we would be flying combat jets for the US armed forces with Indian components if we did not trust India?” he asked.

A fighter pilot himself, Kohler had initiated the sale to India of Raytheon’s 12 Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) for the Indian Army, the amphibious capability USS Trenton (now named INS Jalashwa) for the Indian Navy, and the six Lockheed Martin C 130J Super Hercules that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is buying for special operations.

He said the level of technology that would be available to India would depend upon the financial and security agreements between the Indian and US governments.

Companies like Boeing can sell their systems “only in accordance with those agreements, and not unilaterally.”

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