Sunday 16 December 2018, 02:01 PM
F/A-18 Super Hornet will provide unmatched benefits to India: Pratyush Kumar
By Sushil Sharma | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 9/18/2018 3:21:26 PM
F/A-18 Super Hornet will provide unmatched benefits to India: Pratyush Kumar
Pratyush Kumar, President, Boeing India

In an interview to Hindi magazine DEFENCE MONITOR’s Sushil Sharma, Pratyush Kumar, President, Boeing India, highlighted the capabilities and features of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter which is one of the seven contenders in the race to win deal over $20 billion for 114 fighters for the Indian Air Force.He also spoke about Boeing’s plans to support an ecosystem for aerospace industry in India.

Now that you have responded to the RFI for 114 fighters for IAF, ToT again will be a grey area. Not only ToT, this time the contenders are asked to support the Indian programme AMCA. In the light of the recent 2+2 talks and signing of COMCASA, how will you proceed with the above two requirements?

Our F/A-18 Super Hornet ‘Make in India’ proposition is an example of what the future could look like for Indian Aerospace. The F/A-18 Super Hornet will provide unmatched benefits to not only the Indian armed forces but also to India’s indigenous aerospace manufacturing sector. We are prepared to bring our global scale and supply chain, its best-in-industry precision manufacturing processes, as well as the company’s unrivaled experience designing and optimizing aerospace production facilities to bear in both expanding India’s aerospace ecosystem and in serving as a bridge to the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Importantly, we are proposing to deliver this next-gen production system and ToT through a Public Private Partnership which leverages the best of India’s current manufacturing capabilities and its private sector innovation. The depth of the transfer will really help advance India’s aerospace ecosystem.We can bring the best of Boeing from both the commercial and defense business and from what we've learned about making F/A-18 Super Hornets to create the next generation 21st century aerospace capability in India.

Whom do you see between Rafale and Sukhoi-35 as your strongest competitor?

The Super Hornet is highly capable across the full mission spectrum and is a true multi-role aircraft, able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strike with precision guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions. 

It has the right mix of stealth, lethality and affordability to most effectively prosecute IAF’s missions. 

Why do you think India should select Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet which is an old technology aircraft when latest technology aircraft such as- Gripen, Rafale, Eurofighter , Mig-35 and Su-35 are also competing?

The Super Hornet Block II, that achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOP) in the U.S. in 2007, is actually the newest of the proven platforms on offer. The United States continues to buy new build aircraft in large numbers and has committed plans to operate well into the middle of the century.We are offering the newest iteration of Super Hornet, the Block III, which will be produced for the U.S. Navy, next year.

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 U.S. work on delivering new capabilities to the field. Critical mission systems such as the radar, mission computers and sensors continue to evolve to match up to the mission profiles of the future.

The Block III Super Hornet complements existing and future air wing capabilities with multi-mission capabilities including battle-space situational awareness, counter stealth targeting, greater range and increased acceleration, improved survivability and reduced signature and room for growth.

The RFI asks for the specific weapons to be integrated in the aircraft. Which weapons Boeing offers with its F-18 and will there be any provision to integrate Indian missiles like Brahmos?

The F/A-18 Super Hornet is certified for a wide range of stores enabling it to perform a variety of combat reconnaissance and support missions. Among these missions are Offensive and Defensive Counter Air, Air Interdiction, Close Air Support, Non-Traditional Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Strike Coordination and Aerial Re Fueling. With 11 store stations and over 400 approved load outs, the SH is capable of performing several of these missions in a single sortie, making it a true multi role platform.  The Indian Government has provided its questions for integration of specific weapons to the US Government.

Under the off-set policy, the bidders are also required to use indigenous parts and assemblies in the foreign aircraft. Have you identified which parts/ assemblies could be made in India for your product?

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 program 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 is procuring over $1B from Indian industry. But indigenously producing the F/A-18 for the IAF – and the Indian Navy – will enable 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 Tier 1 partners are having robust engagement with suppliers in India about building Super Hornets. This includes suppliers who manufacture parts for the Super Hornet in India.

According to the RFI, the selected fighter should be capable of undertaking various roles including maritime role. Can you please define roles and capabilities of Boeing’s F-18 comparing with your competitors?

A true multi role aircraft, the Super Hornet is able to perform virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum including air superiority, day/night strike with precision guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defence, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and buddy refueling. The Super Hornet brings unmatched capability with superior designed-in stealth, advanced data fusion, a balanced approach to survivability and evolutionary capability enhancements.

With multi-role capabilities, advanced technologies with room to grow and low acquisition and sustainment costs, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is the clear choice for India.  With designed-in stealth, an AESA radar and many other advanced technologies that are ideal for all possible mission requirements, the F/A-18 Super Hornet is the most advanced aircraft of its kind in operation today and will provide operational benefits to the existing and future force structure of the Indian armed forces.

Performance Based Logistic Package (PBL) is yet another stringent condition in the RFI which requires 75% availability and 150 flying hrs for each aircraft for 10 years. How are you poised to meet this condition?

Boeing is committed to support the Indian armed forces requirements. Our support and services to the Indian Navy P-8I fleet and the Indian Air Force’s C-17 Globemaster III fleet is contributing to the high levels of mission readiness that these two platforms are delivering across the entire mission spectrum. We are prepared to meet the future requirements of the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force to enable them to get the highest level of operational capability required.

Boeing has leveraged its Global experience and strength in supporting diverse platforms to provide sustainment support to P8I and C-17 aircraft. Mission capable rates being maintained by both these platforms are a benchmark against which IN and IAF are comparing the PBL solutions being offered by other aircraft manufacturers. Our relationship with the customer is not of a seller and buyer but as a partner. We are working with the customers to build comprehensive maintenance and training capabilities for each platform.

The maintenance hangars and back shop capabilities being developed for C-17 aircraft would easily rank amongst the best in the world including bases in mainland USA. Simulator training facilities for C-17 have been functional since past 2 years and a state of the art simulator training center for P8I will be delivered by Boeing in two years and we would leverage this successful model to provide a comprehensive PBL solution for the F/A 18 as well.

Cost and maintenance are two major factors. How economic would be F-18 in-comparison with the other aircraft in the fray. What is your offer in regard to maintenance support for the fleet of F-18?

The F/A-18 Super Hornet not only has a low acquisition cost, but it costs less per flight hour to operate than any other tactical aircraft in U.S. forces inventory. Part of its affordability is because the Super Hornet is designed to need far less maintenance; this translates into high mission availability. Ease of maintenance (supportability) results in lower maintenance man-hours per flight hour.

Plus, the Super Hornet does not require any scheduled depot-level maintenance and the engine does not require any scheduled maintenance between overhauls. Further, Boeing’s active production line and robust supply chain allow the company to offer the most affordable platform. This low cost of operation, low maintenance requirements and twin-engine based survivability allow the Super Hornet to fly to and back from harsh environments.

What is the status of delivery of Apache and Chinook helicopters?

In July this year, the first AH-64 Apache and CH-47 Chinook for the Indian Air Force completed their successful first flight. This represents an important milestone in our partnership with India, which aims to support the modernization of the Indian armed forces.Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2019.

What is the progress in delivery of India’s additional requirements of four P8is and one more C-17 Globe Master and four P8is?

Deliveries for the additional four P-8Is will begin in 2020. Since it follows the foreign military sale processes, the Letter of Acceptance (LOA) is under execution. Further details must come from the Indian MoD or U.S. DoD, but I can report that the program is on schedule!

 

Sushil Sharma(Editor)

Tags:

Super Hornet,F/A-18,aerospace,Sukhoi-35,Rafale,Block III,aircraft,Reconnaissance

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