Boeing Defence India managing director Surendra Ahuja tells Defence.Capital editor N. C. Bipindra that with $1 billion annual sourcing from 225 suppliers, India’s role in his company’s global supply chain in only growing bigger.
Ques. In February 2020, during the visit of President Trump to New Delhi, India and the United States signed the deal for six Apache gunships for the Indian Army. Please share details of this deal such as its delivery schedule, the configuration of these gunships for the Indian Army, costs, and other technical features of these six Apaches?
Ans. Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence signed the contract for the acquisition of an additional six Apaches for the Indian Army. The AH-64 Apache helicopter will be a force multiplier for the Army, just as it is today for the Indian Air Force. For this deal the Indian Army had utilised the ‘Options’ aspect of the original IAF contract. The Apaches delivered to the Army will, therefore, be exactly the same configuration as that of the Air Force. The Apaches are planned to deliver in country within 48 to 49 months after the contract award. As with all our customers, we will continue to assess and communicate regularly with the Army on any impact due to COVID-19. Our Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited joint venture in Hyderabad continues to be a critical source of Apache manufacturing not just for the Indian Army but for customers worldwide, including the US Army. So, as you see, we are already following the slogan raised by the Honourable Prime Minister during the DefExpo at Lucknow earlier this year when he had said not just ‘Make in India, For India’ but ‘Make in India, For the World’!
Ques. Is there a scope for the Chinook fleet in the Indian Air Force to grow in the near future and what are the reports that Boeing Co. has got on its performance in India? Are there any significant Chinook missions for the Indian Air Force that make Boeing Co. proud about this platform?
Ans. The CH-47F (I) Chinook is an advanced multi-mission helicopter that provides the Indian Air Force with unmatched strategic airlift capability across the full spectrum of combat and humanitarian missions. The Chinooks were inducted by the IAF in 2019. Boeing completed deliveries of the CH-47F (I) Chinooks to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in March before the nation-wide lockdown in India. With lessons picked up from supporting C-17, P-8I and other aircraft in India, combined with Boeing’s in-depth experience in sustaining aircrafts worldwide, weare in the process of developing sustainment proposal for the IAF Chinooks. The IAF is delighted with the performance of the Chinooks and they are employing the helicopter for high altitudes missions. Boeing would be glad to support the IAF if they requested us for more Chinook platforms but, of course, the IAF is best suited to respond to that question.
Ques. How have each of Boeing’s joint ventures and supply contracts with Indian partners performed over the years — in particular, the ones with Tata Group companies, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Dynamatic Technologies Limited, Rossell Techsys and others? What is the quantum of sourcing from India that Boeing Co. does annually and how has this grown over the years?
Ans. Boeing has always supported the development of indigenous aerospace and defence capabilities and our expanding supplier base makes it imperative for us to invest in, develop, and nurture talent in India. Our sourcing from India stands at close to $1 billion per year from 225 suppliers who are manufacturing critical systems and components for some of Boeing’s most advanced products.
Tata Boeing Aerospace (TBAL), Boeing’s manufacturing joint venture with Tata Group, is an example of our strategic focus on ‘Make in India’ and marks a major step towards the co-development of integrated systems in aerospace and defence. Apache fuselages and structures made in this cutting-edge factory in Hyderabad are for not just the Indian Army but for customers around the world, including the US Army. We look forward to seeing the Indian Army’s recently contracted six new Apaches rolling down that production line.
Dynamatic Technologies manufactures the ramp and complex aft pylon for Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. Rossell Techsys manufactures wire harness and electrical panel for the AH-64 Apache, and the harness for V-22 Osprey. SASMOS HET Technologies manufactures electrical panel assemblies and wire harness for the F/A-18 Super Hornet and F-15 Strike Eagle. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) manufactures F/A-18 gun bay doors and wire harnesses, and P-8I weapons bay doors and identification friend-or-foe transponders.
In terms of skilling and up-skilling, we are developing Indian MSMEs, aircraft maintenance engineers, technicians, and frontline factory workers across India with our industry partners like Tata, Rossell, Jaivel and Lakshmi Machine Works. Our vision is a robust, globally competitive aerospace and defense ecosystem in India. In my view, it is about nothing less than fast-tracking India’s journey to becoming an aerospace and defense design, production, and support hub.
Ques. What other big opportunities does Boeing Co. see in India from the defence sector?
Ans. India’s defence sector is poised for growth and Boeing is committed to supporting and enabling this progress. Boeing has had a presence in the country for over 75 years now, and we have had many firsts with India. India was the first international customer for the P-8, is the largest international operator of C-17s as also the P-8 and the Harpoon missile was the first US weapon system on an Indian-built fighter.
The future looks promising and we continue to see several opportunities in India. We are engaged with our defence customers on their requirements for the Air Force’s Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft and the Navy’s Carrier-Borne Fighter programme. We are also working with the IAF on the tankers’ requirement. We are working with the IAF on sustainment and training proposals for both Chinooks and Apaches.
As you know, earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence signed the contract for the acquisition of an additional six Apaches for the Indian Army – much of these aircraft will be built in TBAL, Hyderabad. We are also seeing the growth in our localisation of MRO services and training, and the value Boeing is able to provide through the lifecycle of its products. We work with the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy to provide exceptional operational capability and readiness to the P-8Is, C-17s, and Head of State aircraft through local sustainment services in India. 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. We are big advocates for “for India, by India” to tap into the talent and innovation in India to sustain, train and produce these systems. Also, there are exciting developments in India’s space arena that allow the private sector to carry out space activities like building rockets, satellites, and providing launch services is positive. We admire India’s strides in space exploration and ambitious plans for human space flights and are working to support the ISRO’s mission.
Today, with 11 C-17s, eight P-8Is with four more on order, 22 AH-64 Apaches with six more on order, and 15 CH-47 Chinooks, India is at the front and centre of Boeing’s business plans. We established a local company in India, Boeing Defence India, to deliver advanced capability and readiness to our military customers. We are contributing to the growth of India’s aerospace industry; and that is why we are investing in partnerships across the ecosystem in skilling, research and technology, and manufacturing. India’s role in our global supply chain is big and getting bigger. Our commitment to India is deep and it is for the long term. Our vision is to bring the best of Boeing to India and the best of India to Boeing and to the world!