Following the disappointment of missing out on European and North American fighter business with Finland, Switzerland and Canada, Boeing is confident the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Block III will secure a production contract with the Indian Navy (IN) and beat competition from Dassault’s Rafale M in the process.
A procurement programme for 26 carrier-based aircraft is currently on offer to industry but a total quantity could rise to ‘just over 50’, according to Steve Parker, Boeing VP fighters and bombers.
India has not confirmed when a production award decision will be taken but in-country aircraft demonstrations of both the Super Hornet and Rafale M have already taken place, with a chosen aircraft eventually set to be deployed from the IN’s new Vikrant-class aircraft carrier.
‘We took two [Super Hornet Block III] aircraft over [to the Goa naval station] and ran them off the ski jump which replicates the Indian carrier,’ Parker explained during a 15 July media press briefing during the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford. He added: ‘We can launch with four Harpoons, so when you talk about closing kill chains or weapons effects we think we have a pretty good solution.’
Parker also confirmed that other activities related to the Indian demonstration included speed testing and heavy-load aircraft configurations. ‘We have the only two seat aircraft that can fly from the carrier, the competition doesn’t and we can carry more weapons, [greater] payload and we can fit into the lifts on the Indian carrier,’ he added.
Shephard reported last month that other key issues facing decision-makers include aircraft unit costs, upgrades, lifecycle costs and commonality with the IN’s current inventory. Parker did not go into specifics on how an industrial package for an IN Super Hornet acquisition would support domestic industry, but he did emphasise that Boeing has proven experience in contributing to the ‘Make in India’ manufacturing initiative through collaboration with Tata on fuselages for the AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopter.