“F/A-18 Su­per Hor­net for In­dia: Multi-role, Com­bat Tested and Built for the Fu­ture”

SP's Aviation - - TABLE OF CONTENTS -

In this in­ter­view, Boe­ing In­dia Pres­i­dent Pratyush Ku­mar talks to SP’s Avi­a­tion and shares his perspective on why In­dia should se­ri­ously con­sider the F/A-18 Su­per Hor­net for its fighter re­quire­ments and how it would achieve the dual pur­poses of pro­vid­ing ca­pa­bil­ity to the warfight­ers and in­dus­trial ca­pa­bil­ity to build In­dia’s aerospace in­dus­try.

SP’s Avi­a­tion (SP’s): How do you feel about fighter op­por­tu­ni­ties for both the Navy and Air Force?

Pratyush Ku­mar (Ku­mar): One look at the decks of United States Navy’s air­craft car­ri­ers and the Royal Aus­tralian Air Force’s fleet and you’ll see ad­vanced, com­bat-proven strike ca­pa­bil­ity. The Su­per Hor­net is the multi-role so­lu­tion for the Navy and in­ter­na­tional air force cus­tomers. The Royal Aus­tralian Air Force op­er­ates 24 Su­per Hor­nets and 12 Growlers.

The Su­per Hor­net would be a good op­tion for In­dia to eval­u­ate for its Navy and Air Force’s fighter re­quire­ments due to its com­bat proven multi-role ca­pa­bil­i­ties, ad­vanced sur­viv­abil­ity, with room to grow and hav­ing the low­est cost per flight hour among all US tac­ti­cal com­bat fight­ers in­clud­ing sin­gle en­gine fight­ers.

The Su­per Hor­net brings the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of tech­nolo­gies to the warfighter. With de­signed-in stealth and ro­bust ca­pa­bil­ity growth plan, the Su­per Hor­net is the best air­craft to get to In­dia’s Ad­vanced Medium Com­bat Air­craft (AMCA) pro­gramme.

Boe­ing is deeply com­mit­ted to ex­pand­ing its in­dus­trial part­ner­ship for pro­duc­ing Su­per Hor­nets in In­dia, fur­ther de­vel­op­ing the coun­try’s aerospace ecosys­tem. Boe­ing will work closely with In­dian in­dus­try to en­sure they have the very lat­est tech­nolo­gies, ap­ply­ing lessons learned from the cur­rent Su­per Hor­net pro­duc­tion line.

SP’s: What would be the best ap­proach for In­dia as it eval­u­ates strength­en­ing its fighter ca­pa­bil­ity?

Ku­mar: In­dia has twin ob­jec­tives – to mod­ernise the ca­pa­bil­ity of the de­fence ser­vices and to create an in­dus­trial base with a sub­stan­tial indige­nous foot­print. There­fore, a pro­cure­ment roadmap that achieves these twin goals is the need of the hour. A crit­i­cal re­quire­ment of any such roadmap should be to create the in­dus­trial scale to en­able Make in In­dia which can only be achieved by con­sid­er­ing com­mon­al­ity of parts such as radars and engines across plat­forms. Un­co­or­di­nated pro­cure­ment loses this im­por­tant lever. Given this, we want to fol­low the lead of the Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) in­stead of just push­ing for sales of plat­forms. We will be re­spon­sive to the needs of the MoD and to fol­low their process.

SP’s: What is the F/A-18 Su­per Hor­net’s roadmap by the US Navy?

Ku­mar: Boe­ing’s Su­per Hor­net is com­bat proven and de­fined to meet the US Navy’s flight plan so that it con­tin­ues to evolve to out­pace fu­ture threats. The Su­per Hor­net will be on the Navy’s car­rier decks for decades to come – be­ing three-fourths of the Navy’s strike fighter ca­pac­ity into the 2030’s and no less than half the car­ri­ers strik­ing force into the 2040’s.

The Pres­i­dent of the United States in his fis­cal 2019 bud­get in­cluded a re­quire­ment for 110 Su­per Hor­nets over the next five years to ad­dress its strike fighter short­fall. At the same time, the United States Navy has be­gun fund­ing Block III ca­pa­bil­i­ties to en­sure the air wing has the ca­pa­bil­i­ties needed to win in the 2020s and be­yond.

That gives us a great op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue the pro­gramme which is evo­lu­tion­ary ca­pa­bil­ity devel­op­ment from a risk perspective of low risk change that de­liv­ers rev­o­lu­tion­ary per­for­mance.

SP’s: Can you tell us more about the Su­per Hor­net Block III?

Ku­mar: The Su­per Hor­net is a plat­form that is con­tin­u­ously evolv­ing to out­pace fu­ture threats. Ev­ery two years Boe­ing and its in­dus­try part­ners along with the US Navy work on de­liv­er­ing new ca­pa­bil­i­ties to the fighter. Crit­i­cal mis­sion sys­tems such as the radar, mis­sion com­put­ers and sen­sors con­tinue to evolve to match up to the mis­sion pro­files of the fu­ture.

To ad­dress the ca­pa­bil­i­ties needed in the air wing as early as the 2020s, Boe­ing has also de­vel­oped the Block III Su­per Hor­net to com­ple­ment ex­ist­ing and fu­ture air wing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The Ad­vanced F/A-18E/F Su­per Hor­net’s multi-mis­sion ca­pa­bil­i­ties in­clude bat­tle-space sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, counter stealth tar­get­ing, greater range and in­creased ac­cel­er­a­tion, im­proved sur­viv­abil­ity and re­duced sig­na­ture and room for growth.

The Block III Su­per Hor­net will bring most con­tem­po­rary warfighter tech­nolo­gies to the Navy and the Air Force. Even­tu­ally, the up­grades will in­clude sig­na­ture en­hance­ments that re­duces its radar ob­serv­abil­ity, long-range in­frared search and track sys­tem, an up­graded Raytheon (RTN) radar and a deeper mu­ni­tions mag­a­zine.

These ad­vanced ca­pa­bil­i­ties can be both built into new air­craft and in­cor­po­rated into ex­ist­ing air­craft, al­low­ing max­i­mum abil­ity to field these ca­pa­bil­i­ties quickly and af­ford­ably.

SP’s: What are your plans to make the F/A-18s in In­dia?

Ku­mar: We be­lieve In­dia has demon­strated its po­ten­tial in aerospace plat­form devel­op­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing and has a base to build upon. Boe­ing has been work­ing with sup­pli­ers in In­dia for over two decades in man­u­fac­tur­ing, IT and en­gi­neer­ing ser­vices and In­dian com­pa­nies are in­te­grated in our global sup­ply chain. To­day, there are more than 160 sup­pli­ers pro­vid­ing parts and assem­blies cov­er­ing com­modi­ties such as aerostruc­tures, wire harness, com­pos­ites, forg­ings, avion­ics mis­sion sys­tems, and ground sup­port equip­ment.

Boe­ing’s ‘Make in In­dia’ plans for the Su­per Hor­net is to build an en­tirely new and state-of-the-art pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity that can be utilised for other pro­grams like In­dia’s Ad­vanced Medium Com­bat Air­craft (AMCA) pro­gramme. We are pre­pared to bring Boe­ing’s global scale and sup­ply chain, its best-in-in­dus­try pre­ci­sion man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses, as well as the com­pany’s un­ri­valed ex­pe­ri­ence de­sign­ing and op­ti­mis­ing aerospace pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties to both ex­pand In­dia’s aerospace ecosys­tem and help re­al­ize the ‘Make in In­dia’ vi­sion. The ap­proach ad­dresses the in­fra­struc­ture, per­son­nel train­ing, and op­er­a­tional tools and tech­niques re­quired to pro­duce a next gen fighter air­craft right here in In­dia.

Boe­ing will work closely with In­dia in­dus­try to en­sure they have the very lat­est tech­nolo­gies, ap­ply­ing lessons learned from the cur­rent Su­per Hor­net pro­duc­tion line. The pro­gramme en­vis­ages tran­si­tion­ing air­frame and sub­sys­tem man­u­fac­ture to In­dian in­dus­try in a de­lib­er­ate way, rep­re­sent­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary op­por­tu­nity for tech­nol­ogy in­ser­tion and growth within In­dia’s aerospace in­dus­try.

Boe­ing will part­ner with In­dian in­dus­try to de­velop the right ca­pa­bil­i­ties as ef­fi­ciently and cost ef­fec­tively as pos­si­ble to in­te­grate these sup­pli­ers into the global sup­ply chain. Boe­ing and its cur­rent in­dus­try part­ners are hav­ing ro­bust dis­cus­sions with sup­pli­ers in In­dia about build­ing Su­per Hor­nets. We have talked to over 400 In­dian com­pa­nies as part of our part­ner eval­u­a­tion process for var­i­ous sys­tems and sub­sys­tems of Su­per Hor­net. Cur­rently over 60,000 peo­ple from 800 sup­pli­ers across 44 states are part of the sup­ply chain sup­port­ing the Su­per Hor­net. This in­cludes sup­pli­ers who man­u­fac­ture parts for the Su­per Hor­net in In­dia. This can be repli­cated in In­dia.

SP’s: Boe­ing has opened a joint ven­ture fa­cil­ity in part­ner­ship with Tata and is also work­ing on sourc­ing and sup­ply chain ac­tiv­i­ties in In­dia. Can you tell us more about that?

Ku­mar: We are fo­cused on our In­dian part­ner­ships to fully harness talent, innovation and pro­duc­tiv­ity op­por­tu­nity in In­dia to de­liver a cost ef­fi­cient sup­ply chain from In­dia to our cus­tomers world­wide. In that sense, ‘Make in In­dia’ has be­come a win-win mantra for us – while it cre­ates jobs and in­dus­trial ca­pac­ity in In­dia it also helps us stay glob­ally com­pet­i­tive to keep grow­ing and create jobs.

We have taken a dual ap­proach of mak­ing equity and non-equity in­vest­ments in sup­port of ‘Make in In­dia’. We part­nered with Tata Ad­vanced Sys­tems to es­tab­lish a joint ven­ture that would pro­duce aerospace aerostruc­tures in In­dia, for the world. But it’s im­por­tant to note that non-equity part­ner­ships also can help grow the de­fense in­dus­trial base. Boe­ing has in­vested hun­dreds of millions of dol­lars in sup­plier devel­op­ment, train­ing, tool­ing and qual­ity sys­tems at In­dian sup­pli­ers with­out tak­ing an equity stake, and we con­tinue to in­crease our part­ner­ships with public and pri­vate com­pa­nies. Boe­ing is work­ing with over 160 In­dian sup­pli­ers to pro­vide ad­vanced, com­plex com­po­nents and sub-assem­blies for our com­mer­cial and de­fense air­craft. This year, Boe­ing has had quadru­pled man­u­fac­tur­ing and sourc­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in In­dia and we plan to sur­pass a bil­lion dol­lars of sourc­ing from In­dian sup­pli­ers.

SP’s: Your thoughts on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the United States and In­dia and how that’s evolved over the last decade?

Ku­mar: We have seen great positive en­ergy and strong par­tic­i­pa­tion across our gov­ern­ments. In­dia is now a Ma­jor De­fense Part­ner of the US Put sim­ply, an ex­panded part­ner­ship be­tween the United States and In­dia will al­low us to create greater pros­per­ity for both our na­tions and stand as mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing engines of growth and innovation.

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