New Delhi. 05 October 2021. “India is at the front and centre of significant opportunities for Boeing. We’re engaged with the IAF on their requirement for Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft. Earlier this year, we received a marketing license approval from the U.S. Government to offer the F-15EX to India. We are confident about the long-term growth potential of India’s defence sector and are committed to supporting and enabling its progress, ” stated Surendra Ahuja, Managing Director, Boeing Defence India in an exclusive interview to Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) on the 89th Indian Air Force Day.
ADU. What do the next five years look like for Boeing in India? On the upcoming Air Force Day how do you visualise your future association with IAF?
SA. If we start with a quick look at the last five years, Boeing has accelerated growth in India with a razor-sharp focus on the key areas of:
- Customer engagement – meeting the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) modernization and mission-readiness needs
- Supplier expansion – building a deep and wide supplier-partner network and robust supply-chain management with a focus on Aatmanirbhar Bharat
- Services growth – to support our customers through the lifecycle of platforms offered
Our proven portfolio of products and services offer unmatched operational capabilities to India’s defence forces across the entire mission spectrum. Today, we support India in its operations of 11 C-17s, 22 AH-64 Apaches (with six more on order), 15 CH-47 Chinooks, and 10 P-8Is (with two more on order).
We are seeing growth in our services business and with it, growth in the value Boeing creates through product lifecycle support and training. We are already working with the IAF to provide exceptional operational capability and mission-readiness for the C-17s, and the Head-of-State aircraft through sustainment contracts, and the Chinooks and Apaches through warranty.
India is at the front and centre of significant opportunities for Boeing. We’re engaged with the IAF on their requirement for Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft. Earlier this year, we received a marketing license approval from the U.S. Government to offer the F-15EX to India.
Also, as the IAF further shapes its defence capabilities, the KC-46 is the perfect choice for a multi-role tanker-transport aircraft for appropriate mid-air refueling capability. The new KC-46 is designed from the ground-up to be a combat-ready tanker. We also believe that the IAF has requirements for more Chinooks and we stand ready to support them.
Our focus is also to help build a strong indigenous Indian aerospace and defence ecosystem, and invest in partnerships and talent to contribute to the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat. This will shape the next five years for us. Boeing’s sourcing from India has steadily grown over the years to approximately $1 billion annually. Our Indian suppliers manufacture critical systems and components that go into some of Boeing’s most advanced aircraft. In 2021 alone, we added new suppliers including several Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), as part of our commitment to Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Earlier this year our joint venture, Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited in Hyderabad, delivered the 100th fuselage for the Apache attack helicopter.
We are confident about the long-term growth potential of India’s defence sector and are committed to supporting and enabling its progress.
ADU. Now that Apache and Chinook have become a part of the IAF fleet, which product will be on your focus for the IAF?
SA. In early 2021, Boeing received a marketing license approval from the U.S. Government to offer the F-15EX to India. The F-15EX offers a future-ready, multi-role solution to the IAF that has superior deterrent and air supremacy capabilities.
Also, as India expands its air force and increases its defence capabilities, it is imperative for the IAF to have appropriate mid-air refueling capability. Boeing’s KC-46 is the perfect choice for a multi-role tanker-transport aircraft. The new KC-46 is designed from the ground-up to be a combat-ready tanker.
We believe that the IAF has requirement for some additional Chinooks. We stand prepared to support that requirement and others that the IAF may have.
ADU. What are the expansion plans for JV with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL)?
SA. Our joint venture with Tata, Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited (TBAL) in Hyderabad, is already in its sixth year of operation. Spread over 14,000 sq. ft., this state-of-the-art facility with over 500 engineers and technicians, truly demonstrates co-development of integrated systems in aerospace and defence in India. It is another significant example of Boeing’s commitment towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Recently, we added a new production line to manufacture complex vertical fin structures for the 737 family of airplanes. We continue to explore areas for Aatmanirbhar Bharat and adding more value to the Indian aerospace and defence ecosystem.
It may be noted that TBAL by itself is working with several suppliers, many of them MSMEs, towards the manufacture of the Apache fuselages. It’s easy to see how one JV of this calibre can help ignite the whole A&D ecosystem in India.
ADU. In addition to Dynamatic Technologies, Tata Advanced Systems Limited and Rossell Techsys which Indian companies have you partnered with and for what? How are the HAL and BEL partnerships proceeding?
SA. Boeing is currently working with 275 plus suppliers in the country and that number continues to grow. While you have named just a few suppliers who we work with, to us all suppliers bring a lot of value and are very important.
Boeing’s industrial partners in India are raising the bar to deliver world-class quality, cost-efficiency, and productivity, as they become an important part of the company’s supply chain for some of the most advanced platforms in the world.
There are several examples where our Indian partners are global suppliers of critical parts on Boeing’s defence airplanes. For instance:
- SASMOS HET Technologies manufactures electrical panel assemblies for the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15 Strike Eagle
- Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) manufactures F/A-18 gun bay doors
- Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) manufactures IFF (Identify Friend/Foe) and speech secrecy systems for the P-8
We are also leveraging the Indian industrial base for local capabilities including supply of indigenous equipment on the P-8I and repair of critical components. With Airworks Pvt Ltd, we have been successfully addressing heavy maintenance checks for the P-8I in country. Further capability development planning is in progress to support the growing P-8I fleet, improving the local aviation ecosystem while ensuring quicker turnaround for the Indian Navy.
We are continuously investing in local capacity-building as well as collaborations with Indian organizations across manufacturing, infrastructure, engineering services, research and technology, training, and skills development. These collaborative programs are developing the skilled and trained workforce in India needed to build an ecosystem conducive to business success. Our Indian suppliers are our partners in the journey towards Aatmanirbhar Bharat and in making India a key hub for aerospace and defence manufacturing for the world.
ADU. With Indian armed forces having sizeable numbers of Boeing aircraft and choppers, is it time to think of a dedicated MRO facility?
SA. From performance-based logistics contracting and integrated fleet support to maintenance, modifications and repairs, Boeing provides a broad spectrum of innovative products and services across platforms which directly support and enhance capabilities while reducing total cost of ownership for our customers globally. Boeing’s investments in services infrastructure, building local capabilities, workforce training and partnerships in India are aimed at ensuring the Indian armed forces successfully complete their missions, operate their assets at peak condition and do so affordably.
Boeing is working with Indian customers to provide exceptional operational capability and readiness for defence platforms that includes the Head of State aircraft, P-8Is, C-17s, Chinooks and Apaches. Earlier this year, we launched the Boeing India Repair Development and Sustainment (BIRDS) Hub. BIRDS is an initiative to bring together ecosystem partners to shape India as a strategic destination for aerospace engineering, maintenance, repair and sustainment services. This is first of its kind initiative that seeks to provide customers with best-in-class solutions, efficient turnaround times, and optimal economical value, all available in-country. This does not necessarily imply starting an MRO of our own. We do not need to. We believe it makes more sense to partner with local MROs that are already established and have great capabilities. We bring specific trainings to their employees as required per the scope of work. One such example is Air Works in Hosur who we work with for the heavy checks on the P-8I fleet. Likewise, we are constantly on the look-out to do more here. While we are already doing P-8I wheels and brakes in-country, we are now examining local MROs for their ability to do P-8I landing gear overhaul, and, even engines.
At Boeing we take localization seriously and will continue to work with local MROs and enhance their capabilities through focused skilling.