In what could give a big boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign, US aviation manufacturer Boeing has decided to assemble one of its two helicopters — Chinook heavy-lift and Apache attack types — in India.
“We are much closer to have assembly (of) one of those airplanes (choppers) here. That will play out and that’s our strategy… This market is too important, capability is too high and commitment is significant and that kind of commitment is important for us,” said chairman Jim McNerney.
Hoping India would call for bids for a fighter aircraft over the next couple of years, McNerney showed interest in making state-of-the-art fighter planes in the country. “Our approach is going to be to take a current, state-of-the-art fighter and bid. The quantities are uncertain. Our bid will include a proposal to make the plane here,” he said at a seminar organised here by Boeing.
Boeing currently builds the F/A-18 fighter jets for the US Navy and a few other customers. Its most recent state-of-the art combat plane has been the F-22 Raptor stealth jet, which it had built in the last decade with fellow American defence major Lockheed Martin.
In fact, the F/A-18 and Lockheed’s F-16 were both contenders for the Indian Air Force’s mega 126 jet Multirole Medium Range Combat Aircraft deal, with was eventually won by France’s Dassault Rafale.
McNerney’s belief that India would offer a new fighter jet contract stems from the fact that the 126 jet deal was eventually whittled down to a 36-plane contract, not enough in the face of a crunching fighter jet shortage even as the Indian Air Force looks at retiring the ageing fleet of Soviet-era MiG 21s and MiG 27s.
In September, India had signed a contract for 15 Chinook and 22 Apache helicopters.
“The value to India is a very modern production system integrated to make a very sophisticated machine. That kind of industrial base capability is as important as the fighter itself. These modern manufacturing techniques can go into many different industries,” said McNerne.
The chairman added ‘Make in India’ was a “very important” initiative by the Modi government and the US firm could play a key role in the initiative.
“Make in India is not just someone handing you a blueprint and you make it. It can’t be that way but I think the vision of the Prime Minister is more than that. So, I would break, at least the way I see it, Make in India down to design and make in India for India and global (market).”