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India Is In Talks To Buy More Apache And Chinook Helicopters: Boeing Official

Story Highlights
  • The Navy has 12 P-8I long-range maritime aircraft, which were purchased in two batches from Boeing.
  • The Indian Navy's Shore Based Test Facility to verify their interoperability and suitability to operate from Indian aircraft carriers (SBTF).

According to a senior official from aircraft maker Boeing, the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter jet has significant capabilities over the competitor French Rafale-M fighter jet to operate from the Indian Navy’s aircraft carriers. According to Torbjorn (Turbo) Sjogren, vice president, International Government and Defense, Boeing, India is also discussing the purchase of more Chinook CH-47F(I) Chinook heavy-lift helicopters and AH-64E Apache attack helicopters.

“One thing we’re quite confident about is the capability of the product’s preparedness and proficiency. Indian aircraft carriers can operate the F/A-18 and F/A-18F. That’s a distinct advantage we have over the French,” Mr. Turbo remarked in a virtual interview with The Hindu, pointing out that the Rafale-twin-seater M’s trainer model cannot operate from carriers and must land. He pointed out that the number of training planes included in the purchase is not trivial.

He went on to say that there are issues because of the carrier’s size, the logistics of the aircraft, the number of aircraft, and how to move the aircraft about the carrier. “That issue has been resolved. The problem was handled by our Bangalore team, and we now have a solution… So some tweaking is required, particularly in terms of onboard logistics,” Mr. Turbo explained.

The Navy had anticipated a requirement of 57 aircraft under the arrangement, but that number is likely to be reduced to 26 as a result of the indigenous design and development of a new Twin Engine Carrier Based Deck Fighter. “We’re looking forward to seeing when they define the demand and then how to meet it,” he said.

Navy is in desperate need of carrier-based jets to operate from both carriers, with the indigenous carrier Vikrant due to be commissioned in August.

Two Boeing F/A-18s were in Goa last month conducting testing from the Indian Navy’s Shore Based Test Facility to verify their interoperability and suitability to operate from Indian aircraft carriers (SBTF). Earlier this year, Rafale-M performed a similar performance.

The Indian Air Force has 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters that were purchased from Boeing through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales programme in September 2015 for $3 billion. Furthermore, during President Donald Trump’s visit to India in February 2020, India agreed to purchase six more Apache helicopters for $800 million, which will be operated by the Army.

Mr. Turbo also mentioned that talks for an additional seven Chinook helicopters are in the works. “The Army wants additional Apaches, while the IAF wants more Chinooks,” says the source.

The Navy has 12 P-8I long-range maritime aircraft, which were purchased in two batches from Boeing. With the government’s evaluation of all direct imports, another case for six more P-8I aircraft, for which the Defense Ministry has given initial approval, has been postponed.

The P-8Is are generating a lot of interest throughout the world, and they’re in talks with numerous countries in India’s neighbourhood, as well as New Zealand, Australia, and several Southeast Asian countries. Mr. Turbo did warn, however, that if there aren’t enough orders, the manufacturing lines will be shut down at some point, citing the C-17 cargo plane as an example, which has been updated worldwide but the lines have been closed for a long time. “We’re not quite there yet, but it’s a fact of life.” Mr. Turbo used the C-17s as an example.

He did not provide a particular date for such a situation, but he did say that the Indian Navy and the US Navy are well aware of it.

“The performance of our products, and the personnel that support our products, I believe, is crucial in terms of those campaigns continuing ahead,” Mr. Turbo said of the vast portfolio of products with the Indian armed forces.

He also claimed that they are utilising local capabilities and self-reliance as part of this, and that “Boeing to exploit India more than we are doing currently” is a significant emphasis and potential.

For example, he claims that their joint venture with Tata Group in Hyderabad produces all Apache fuselages in the globe. “Right now, the Apache is generating a lot of attention. As every one of those fuselages will be constructed there, Australia, Poland, Romania, and a lot of European countries,” Mr. Turbo added, adding that the 1,100 suppliers and sub-suppliers who help Tata are certainly crucial in this regard.

Boeing is also competing for the IAF’s tender for 114 jets, offering the F-15EX and F-18 fighters.

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