Recently, a team of Indian journalists were invited by Boeing defence to visit some of their facilities to understand its global strategy and future plans for India. With its Chinook and Apache helicopters already approved for induction in the Indian Armed Forces, and Boeing being a contender for India’s big ticket purchases in the pipeline, the company’s stakes in our market are obviously high.
Nitin A Gokhale, Founder BharatShakti.in was also part of the team. Post the visit, Nitin went on to interview Pratyush Kumar, President Boeing India and Vice President Boeing International.
Nitin A. Gokhale (NG): While Boeing’s Chinook and Apache helicopters are being bought by the Indian military, what are the company’s plans to offer India its combat jets?
Pratyush Kumar (PK): It is well established that India needs fighters beyond indigenously developed Tejas and recently ordered Rafale as ageing MiGs, Jaguar and Mirage retire and defense services must get ready to combat growing threat from modern aircraft in the neighborhood.
This also presents an unprecedented opportunity to transform India’s aerospace ecosystem by building fighters here.
Our detailed road map involves setting up a new, futuristic Indian factory for an upcoming Make in India fighter program. It is also about creating the aerospace ecosystem to build the Block II Super Hornet which was developed in mid 1990s and is the most modern aircraft among the ones being discussed for India. We have discussed plans to co-develop “Advanced Super Hornet” with India. That infrastructure and design capability would give Indian designers the instruments to build Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), the fifth-generation fighter that DRDO hopes to build.
So this is about the complete development roadmap and not just building an aircraft which may or may not have future growth potential. Also, we are not talking about moving an existing line to India but about setting up a brand new factory that will have all the lessons that we have learnt over time. We will bring the best of modern manufacturing capabilities to make a 21st century factory. It will be capable of producing future platforms as well.
We are in talks with several Indian companies to select a partner but the final decision would depend on the government’s strategic partnership model.
NG: Are you approaching the Indian MoD with any proposal on this count? Or do you plan to?
PK: We have been in discussions with the MoD and USG on our proposal and will continue to engage.
NG: What are Boeing’s thoughts on Make in India concept and how could the company contribute to the programme?
PK: We work in a world where our customers require more for less – more capabilities, more performance, more fuel efficiency, more range for more affordable pricing. We therefore look for pockets of productivity across the world and India certainly offers one such opportunity especially for highly engineered products and engineering capabilities.
As Boeing continues to strategically invest to add value to its global scale and depth, the company looks primarily at quality, capability, productivity, and market growth. India offers tremendous advantages in all these areas, which makes it a natural and strategic partner to Boeing for the long term.
Therefore “Make in India” aligns with Boeing’s business strategy. Our affordable sourcing from India has doubled in recent years and now stands close to half a billion dollars a year. Last year, we invested in a joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems that will initiate manufacture Apache attack helicopter fuselages for global needs. Boeing supply-chain includes 30 direct and 120 indirect suppliers in India. We expect that footprint to grow by an order of magnitude with Make-in-India F/A-18 which will create jobs in India as well as in the US.
NG: What advantages would Boeing bring to the Indian Defence and aerospace industry?
PK: Boeing is a100-year old leader in aerospace that has the depth and breadth of aerospace capabilities in commercial and defense, having invested billions of dollars in research and development, technologies, engineering and manufacturing. Boeing is also known for partnering with customers and suppliers around the world to offer cutting-edge capability and business value. Both these vectors can be applied to India’s aerospace industry to take it to the future.
NG: What are your thoughts on some of the policy changes that have been brought in by the MoD? Any suggestions for improvement/amendment on the offset clauses, blacklisting policy etc.?
PK: We welcome MoD’s progressive efforts on all these areas and urge them to continue doing more especially on making offset more executable. Though the revised offset policy theoretically offers more flexibility to the OEMs in executing the program, the policy still can further evolve to fully leverage India’s vast potential such as shorten time to approve new India Offset Partners; give an offset multiplier for foreign direct investment in JVs in India just like Civil Aviation does; increase period of performance to a minimum of 10 years to enable complex, high-technology projects, (where Civil Aviation allows over 12 years after the delivery of last unit); uncap OEMs’ Tier-1 supplier participation so that they can create global centres of excellence in areas such as avionics, jet engines, armaments, etc.; allow group and subsidiary companies of the OEMs to participate in offset activities; and create a practical definition of the India value addition to increase sourcing of higher technology/complexity work for which raw materials are not currently available in India.