Chicago: Boeing, world’s largest maker of commercial jetliners, has said it is “actively pursuing” the sale of multi-role combat aircraft to India, which is to spend a huge $30 billion on defence procurement in the next five years.
“We are actively pursuing the sale of F-18 Superhornets,” said Rick Stephens, senior vice president of Boeing, at the FICCI-US Indian Business Council summit here.
The F-18s are in the race with F-16s, Eurofighter Typhoon and Russian jet fighters for Indian Air Force’s 126 combat aircraft deal.
Stephens said Boeing was also keen to sell to India, P-8I maritime patrol aircraft, Chinooks and Apache helicopters, and C-17s heavylift aircraft.
He said India was emerging as a country of strategic importance to the Chicago-based company not because it offers a growing defence and lucrative aviation market to Boeing. “We want to see India become a critical link in our global supply chain,” Stephens said.
He said that Boeing, in partnership with Air India, would also build a $75 million Alteon pilot training centre in India. Alteon, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Boeing, supports airline training needs by offering flight and maintenance training in the 100-plus seat aircraft category.
Boeing has recently forged a partnership with the Tatas on both the defence and commercial sides of its business. It entered into an agreement last month in which the Tatas will build floor beams for the 787 plane using new technology with advanced titanium and composite materials, a step in reducing the weight of the airplane.
The company has announced a joint venture with the Tatas. The JV will encompass over $500 million of defence-related aerospace component work in India for export to Boeing and its international customers.
“Boeing has established a strong presence in India and is not shy to say that we are seeking to become India’s preferred aerospace partner and provider, Stephens said.
He said that India, which is growing by 8-9% in GDP, is a huge market and inward investments, including those in aviation, defence and aerospace, are growing in the country.
Boeing has sold 153 commercial aircraft valued at $23 billion to India in the last three years. The buyers included Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and Air Sahara.
Stephens said the Indian small and medium enterprises were important for Boeing, though they would operate through bigger companies, known as tier-one suppliers of components.
“SMEs will be critical to the success of our major manufacturing partners in India,” he said.