New Delhi (Sputnik) — American firm Boeing has offered to set up a production facility for its F/A-18 fighter jet in India if it is awarded the $15 billion contract for 57 multi-role combat fighter jets for the Indian Navy's aircraft carrier. The procurement plan of 57 combat jets is currently in the request for information (RFI) stage. India is desirous of licensed production of the fighter jets with the transfer of technology.
"We are talking about creating a next generation facility in India. We think the Super Hornet is the most advanced airplane that India could manufacture which will lead to the next generation of the airplane that India will design and build here," Dan Gillian, Vice President of Boeing's F/A-18 program, said in a press conference in New Delhi.
The company asserted that fighter jets would require ‘no modifications' to operate from the ski-jump of the aircraft carriers such as INS Vikramaditya, and under-construction Vikrant-class. But, questions persist whether it would be feasible to set up a production line for such low quantity of fighter jets?
"Given the Make in India slant in the defense procurement policy through the mechanism of strategic partnerships, no foreign company can expect to remain in contention unless it is prepared to facilitate the substantial amount of manufacturing in India. The offer to make helicopters, or any other platform for that matter, has to be seen in this perspective. The viability of the offer depends not just on the domestic demand but also on the potential for exports. Having said that, no deal can be clinched only on the basis of the offer to make a platform in India," Amit Cowshish, former financial advisor to Indian defense ministry told Sputnik.
Boeing is however not the first foreign firm to make such an offer. Other contenders include French Rafale, Swedish Saab Sea Gripen and Russian MiG-29K.
The RFI for the multi-billion mega deal was issued by the Indian Navy in January this year in response to which Russian, French, Swedish and American companies had replied with their intent. The Indian Navy has said that responses are being evaluated and a formal tender may be issued as early as next year. Sources told to Sputnik that the delivery of the fighter jets is not expected before 2025.
The Indian Navy is looking for day-night; all-weather multi-role deck based combat aircraft which can be used for air defense, air-to-surface operations, buddy refueling, reconnaissance, and EW missions from naval aircraft carriers.
"Clinching of the deal depends on a number of technical and commercial factors, beginning with compliance of the platform with the technical specifications laid down by the Ministry of Defense, life cycle support and its price competitiveness," Cowshish added.
Selected aircraft will operate from indigenously developed IAC-1 aircraft carrier which will be conventional ski jump based short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) layout and INS Vikramaditya. The IAC 1 which is under-construction is expected to begin sea trials in 2019.