Boeing eyes tie-ups with India Inc.


New Delhi : US aerospace major Boeing hopes to leverage the country’s proposed “bankable offsets” policy to increase its engagement with India Inc., even as it awaits the outcome of an Indian Air Force (IAF) order for 126 combat jets.

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“We want to kick start our partnerships with India’s public and private sectors. Why wait for two-three years till the contract (for the jets) is signed?” Chris Chadwick, vice president and general manager for Global Strike Systems at Boeing Integrated Defence Systems (IDS), maintained at a select media gathering here Thursday.

“We are now waiting for the bankable offsets clause to be codified and included in the Defence Procurement Procure (DPP-2006),” added Anil Shrikhande, vice president and India head for Boeing IDS.

DPP-2006 contains an offsets clause under which 30 percent of all foreign defence deals worth over Rs.3 billion ($65 million) has to be reinvested in India.

However, due to delays in laying down the procedures for implementing the policy, the government is now contemplating a scheme under which these investments can be banked and credited against eventual orders for military hardware.

At the same time, a section of India’s defence establishment opposes the measure, saying it would create an unfair advantage for foreign military vendors who already have a presence in India.

Boeing is already in a strategic partnership with Indian infrastructure major L&T (Larsen and Toubro) and hopes to expand it to other companies.

“We are in discussions with a broad spectrum of Indian industries to establish a better relationship,” Chadwick pointed out.

“The Indian government is looking to increase its supply chain with private industry and we hope to be part of the process,” he added.

Pointing to Boeing’s “incredible track record” on offsets, Shrikhande said this had seen the company invest $27 billion in 35 countries.

“We bring a base of experience. We don’t have a suitcase mentality where we build a product and exit. We are looking at long-term partnerships,” he added.

Speaking about the IAF order, Chadwick contended Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet was the “best option” for the IAF’s requirement of a multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) to replace its fast depleting fleet of Soviet era fighters.

“It’s a buy-and-fly aircraft and doesn’t require any depot maintenance for the first 6,000 hours. It’s also designed, developed and produced with lifecycle costs factored in. It’s built to last a lifetime,” he added.

The F-18 was developed from the experience gained from four separate platforms – the F-14 Tomcat air superiority fighter, the A-6 medium attack bomber, the EA-6B airborne jammer, and the S-3B airborne tanker.

“This gives the F-18 multi-role combat capability as it can be deployed for attack, air dominance, close air support, and reconnaissance, as well as an airborne refueller,” Chadwick pointed out.

The race for the IAF order is believed to have narrowed down to five aircraft. Apart from the F/A-18, these include the US F-16, the Swedish JAS-39 Grippen, the French Rafale and the Russian Mig-29OVT.

There are indications that the long-delayed IAF tender is likely to be floated within the next two months.