Boeing, HAL, Mahindra tie up to build Super Hornet fighters in India - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Thursday 12 April 2018

Boeing, HAL, Mahindra tie up to build Super Hornet fighters in India

(L to R) Boeing's Pratyush Kumar, HAL's T Suvarna Raju and Mahindra's SP Shukla join forces to build Super Hornets

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 13th Apr 18

Adding a new dimension to the heated global contest to manufacture fighter aircraft in India, The Boeing Company on Thursday announced a partnership with public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and private sector Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS) to make the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in India.

The partnership would come into effect if India were to select the Super Hornet in any one of two ongoing fighter procurements: An inquiry for 57 “multi-role carrier borne fighters” (MRCBF) for the navy, or another inquiry issued last week for 110 multi-role fighters for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

By most calculations, a win by the Super Hornet in one of the tenders would create the financial logic for a win in the other tender as well. That is because production costs in India would progressively reduce as the number of fighters increased.

“Boeing is excited to team up with India’s only company that manufactures combat fighters, HAL, and India’s only company that manufactures small commercial airplanes, Mahindra”, said Pratyush Kumar, Boeing India chief, at the signing ceremony.

Boeing’s “public-private” strategy contrasts with the approach of rival aerospace vendors, Lockheed Martin and Saab, in a separate procurement of single-engine fighters that eventually morphed into the ongoing acquisition of 110 “multi-role fighters”, for which the IAF issued a “request for information” on April 6.

Lockheed Martin and Saab have both partnered private sector firms – Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) and the Adani Group respectively – to build in India. That was because the defence ministry required the single-engine fighters to be built in India under the Strategic Partner (SP) category, which mandates a private sector Indian partner.

Now, however, the defence ministry is reportedly reviewing the SP policy, and considering whether to permit public sector firms to participate in SP category acquisitions.

The Boeing-HAL-Mahindra partnership constitutes a flexible arrangement in which any of the three – the foreign partner, the public sector firm or the private entity – can be the face of the consortium. For example, if a private sector lead is mandatory, Mahindra can be the prime entity, with Boeing and HAL as technology partners.

The entry of HAL, which has an airfield and manufacturing hangars in Bengaluru, could significantly reduce the Super Hornet’s price.

The partners say they are still deciding where manufacture would take place, and are evaluating HAL’s Bengaluru’s facilities as one option.

“We want to build a brand new, 21st century facility for building the F/A-18 Super Hornet in India that allows for final integration and checks. Whether we can house that alongside HAL’s existing runway facilities or we have to create a new space is something that would be worked out between the three partners”, says Kumar.

Boeing, unlike Lockheed Martin and Saab, has been sceptical about the Indian private sector’s ability to manufacture a complex fighter aircraft with technology transfer. Speaking in New Delhi last September, Kumar publicly stated that global experience, including in Turkey, Japan and Brazil, showed that success required “a fine balancing act of co-opting the capabilities of both public and private enterprise.”

Now Boeing, HAL and the Mahindras have done exactly that.

“HAL has always been at the forefront of aerospace developments in India’s aerospace sector”, pointed out T Suvarna Raju, the HAL chief.

The Super Hornet is the US Navy’s main carrier borne fighter, and will remain in production out to 2035 according to Pentagon estimates. A new, Block III evolution has gone into service with enhanced network capability, longer range with conformal fuel tanks, an advanced cockpit system and a life of over 9,000 flying hours.

In December, navy chief, Admiral Sunil Lanba, stated that the RFI for the MRCBF had evoked four responses and that a Request for Proposals would be issued by mid-2018. The four fighters in contention are believed to be the Super Hornet, Dassault’s Rafale-M fighter; Swedish company Saab’s Gripen Maritime, and the Russian MiG-29K/KUB that already flies off the navy’s lone carrier, INS Vikramaditya.

Lanba stated that the MRCBF would be required for INS Vikrant, which is scheduled to be commissioned in 2021, as well as for the subsequent INS Vishal, which is at least 15 years in the future.


  1. Block 3 is not operational

  2. #


  3. I feel sad when I read that India is buying F18 jets that are being replaced in US. The disgusting part is the Boeing India chief, an Indian trying to sell F18 though he knows its being retired in US. His Job and satisfying his Firangi Boss is more important than his own country's National security...I guess loyalty to firangi has been our bane from 14th century, betraying our own country for a piece of bone the company provides him....When will we ever see ourself as equals to the firangis...?


  4. how many types of aircraft India needs in its inventory. tejas, naval tejas, Rafale, Mig 29 K, now at least two more gripen, F18 (naval and air force). what about their maintenance and logistical nightmare. could we even see the requirement of commonality of equipment in future theater commands.
    are Americans mad that they are spending billions to bring commonality between their various aircraft type with F 35. or french mad if they wanted both air and naval versions of rafale. Are russian mad too and we Indians only had such divine vision.
    can french or UK with such huge territory and interest to defend can even afford 42 squadron of Rafales.
    has somebody thought that even 30 squadron of 4 th generation fighters ie 14 sukhoi + 16 tejas mk1/ mk1 A/ mk2 might be more than enough for Indian air force (4 th generation fighter are more capable than entire squadron of mig 21). what figure of 42 squadrens. would IAF be happy with 42 squadrans of toofanis. have they ever detailed how many interceptors, how many strikers, how many long range, how many electronic warfare and so on. indian thali needs mix of vegetables, breads and sweats. but IAF keep on telling that it needs to eat only 42 chapatis and nothing else with no vegetables no yogurt no sweets etc.
    can every new aircraft be multirole only?, why so many aircraft types any ways. even 25 squadrens of these highly expensive fighters might be enough.42 as a figure was decided in 1960 which is very outdated. we must feel create only that much need which we could afford.
    when our gdp is so small we should not think of becoming super power or challenging china even. if one has to challange china then we must acquire their socio- economic strength first. its like a person wants to graduation degree when it has failed miserably in 10th exam. is India super rich country much more than that of France or UK

    which idiot said we only need to fight two front war. even U.S threatened us in 1971. so we must prepare for 3 front war from indian ovcean against U.S. too.
    after china would our airforce like to challange U.S. even.
    why dont airforce demand our political class to double our GDP with in 5 years and ten fold it with in next 15 years so as to even afford atleast some of these gizmos.
    but they would shamelessly never do that.just for their own commissions.
    when we have accepted U.S. supremacy then why not chinese supremacy. is there something special with white skin of Americans. both china russia and US have been involved in worst crimes against humanity in past. al l are same and so are we as a nation.
    we have to think of our country first and should not entertain unnecessory enemosity with any
    Nikhil Agarwal

  5. Is the Government under pressure from such industry groups to hand over a lucrative contract to them ? There is Adani-SAAB on one hand, Tata-Lockheed on the other, and now this.

    The entire MMRCA drama Act-2 is sheer lunacy. This is because we already posses the Tejas, a highly advanced+ multirole fighter, that is the equivalent of the Gripen C/D, and which can replace IAF's entire obsolescent fleet of MiG-21s, MiG-27s, MiG-29s and Mirage-2000s. And this is the Tejas Mk1A we're speaking of.

    The projected requirements of the Tejas Mk.2 are even more advanced, and shall equate with the latest Gripen-E version, which is a contender in this latest 110 fighter tender. So, why doesn't the government rally the Indian private industry to develop and manufacture the Tejas Mk.2, instead ?

    Probably because there is a lot of money to be made by arms middlemen, manufacturers and their political benefactors if a foreign fighter jet is selected. Remember, these jets are eye-poppingly expensive, and even a sliver in commissions to the middlemen and the political class will mean a billion or two dollars.

    Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman alas, has bowed down to the pressure by the government's cronies like Adani, Tata, Mahindra and others to purposely import a foreign fighter jet, despite there being no requirement in face of the Tejas' completion. All this may well be independent India's biggest scam thus far.

    I exhort the media to question the government and the IAF for the need of importing 110 very expensive fighter jets.

  6. Boeing played cleverly by roping in PSU and private player. no other OEM has done that an cannot do that as HAL is the only PSU. but it depends on what is their TOT and operational and LCC. having said that MDS has no experience in defence just like Adani so they can at best only offer manf support to HAL.

  7. HAL is a perennial favorite for playing the screw-driving game and make money. Now Mahindra has also joined.

    Hats off to the TATAS, L&T and BHARAT FORGE. Atleast they have the guts to invest money and build the business from basics in the defence industry.

  8. aurelyanatasha559 October 2022 at 12:08

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last