Boeing said on July 22 it had begun preliminary talks with India on selling and co-producing F-18 Super Hornet fighter planes, a month after New Delhi and Washington signed a far-reaching defense pact.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) has plans to buy as many as 126 multi-role fighters for an estimated $9 billion, as it replaces its aging fleet of Russian-built MiG 21s.
“We have begun initial discussions with the IAF in terms of exploratory relationship building and to provide them with some initial information on the capabilities of the Super Hornet,” Chris Chadwick, Boeing vice president for the F/A-18 programs, told Reuters. “Their response has been very positive.”
The dual-engine F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet is flown only by the U.S. forces while the Hornet version is in the service of seven other air forces, Chadwick said.
He added the price per aircraft would depend on the configuration sought in the planned request for proposal by the IAF. The cost would also be determined by the kind of technology and weapons platform the U.S. government would allow Boeing to export to India, Chadwick said.
“We would be working at setting up a co-production facility for this aircraft in India,” he added.
In June, Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed the “New Framework for U.S.-India Defence Relations,” highlighting the growing warmth in ties between the two democracies.
The framework envisages greater cooperation in defense production and research, exchange of military technologies as well as more military exercises and training exchanges between the large armed forces of both nations.
The framework includes a move to push forward a U.S. offer to sell the anti-missile Patriot system to India, which perceives a threat from nuclear-armed neighbors Pakistan and China.
The Bush administration announced in March it would resume sales of F-16s to India’s rival Pakistan after a nearly 16-year break, widely seen as a reward for Pakistan’s support in the U.S.-led global war on terrorism.
The single engine, multi-role F-16 is built by Lockheed Martin Corp. Pakistan’s planned purchases would boost its fleet of about 32 F-16s acquired before the U.S. Congress cut off sales in 1990 over Islamabad’s nuclear program.