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​Boeing outlines India F/A-18 E/F offering

Boeing is actively promoting its F/A-18 E/F fighter for a future Indian naval requirement, with promise of a major industrial programme.

The US airframer recently discussed its bid for an Indian navy requirement for 57 fighters at a media event in New Delhi.

Presentation slides the company provided to FlightGlobal showed that its "Block III" Super Hornet offering includes signature improvements to reduce the jet's radar cross section, an infrared search and track (IRST) sensor situated in a centreline fuel pod, and conformal fuel tanks to boost the aircraft's range.

Also included is an updated cockpit with a single, large panel display.

The package resembles Boeing's Super Hornet International Roadmap offering, which it promoted for India's former Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) acquisition for 126 aircraft for the air force. This deal was ultimately won by the Dassault Rafale, and although MMRCA ultimately fell through, New Delhi still ordered 36 Rafales.

A big part of Boeing's offering is its industrial package, a key requirement under New Delhi's 'Make in India' initiative. One slide notes that current production of the type in the United States employs 60,000 people and involves 800 suppliers.

For India, Boeing is offering final assembly, the opportunity to "maximise indigenous content," and the chance to participate in the type's global supply chain.

In a video interview with Indian defence site Livefist, Dan Gillian, vice president, F/A-18 & EA-18 programmes at Boeing, said the Super Hornet is capable of operating from India's existing carriers, having determined this through simulations with the Indian Navy.

"We think we can move around the deck, be fully operational, be very mission capable with a relevant weapons load out to give the navy what they need," Gillian told Livefist. "We think we can bring the power of Boeing and what we've learned on F-18 to build a next generation factory for India, which will also allow India to build its next generation aircraft as well."

India operates a single aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, which operates RSK MiG-29K fighters. Unlike US carriers, which use a catapult to launch aircraft, it launches aircraft via a ramp, in a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) configuration.

Another STOBAR carrier, the INS Vikrant, is under construction. A third carrier, IAC-II, is being designed. This ship could have a CATOBAR (Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery) arrangement similar to US carriers.

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