NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S. aircraft maker Boeing Co is in a “conversation” on manufacturing its F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet in India, Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg was quoted on Wednesday as saying on his first visit to the country.
“We see the Super Hornet as an opportunity ... to tie directly into the ‘Make in India’ strategy,” Muilenburg told the Hindustan Times in an interview whose authenticity was confirmed by the company. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ drive is designed to expand India’s industrial base.
Boeing was willing to back the project with billions of dollars in investment to India meet its operational needs, according to Muilenburg’s comments in the interview.
India is locked in talks with France’s Dassault Aviation SA to buy 36 French-built Rafale combat jets at a price said to be close to $200 million apiece.
But an earlier tender to buy 126 Rafales collapsed.
Plane makers are queuing up to fill the shortfall with revised offers, stressing their readiness to locate production in India, with Saab AB of Sweden also pushing its single-engine Gripen aircraft.
The twin-engine Super Hornet was eliminated in India’s original tender for Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), however, and the future of its production facility in St Louis is uncertain.
“I would not say there is an official order. This is a conversation we are having right now,” Muilenburg was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying.
Muilenburg also flagged the F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation fighter jointly developed with Lockheed Martin Corp, as a future sales prospect for India, calling it “an area of future investment for which we are interested”.
Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell