Financially-troubled and cash-strapped US aerospace giant Boeing will now pitch to sell its F-15EX fighter jets to the Indian Air Force, after receiving a marketing licence from the US government, media reports said.
A senior executive, Ankur Kanaglekar, India Fighters Lead, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, told reporters on Thursday that the marketing licence now gives them the green light to talk directly with the Indian Air Force. Boeing is expected to ramp up its efforts at the Aero India show next week.
India’s plan to purchase 114 advanced multi-role aircraft is touted to be one of the world’s largest deals and is all part of country’s plan to boost the capability of their armed forces and replace an ageing combat aircraft fleet. The deal is estimated to be worth more than US$18 billion.
Boeing’s European rivals, France’s Rafale, Sweden’s Gripen, and Lockheed Martin are all trying to seal a deal with Indian Air Force. Lockheed Martin will hawk its F-21 fighter aircraft, offering to build the planes in the country to win the deal. While Boeing will also team with its local partners state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd for this deal. At least 85 per cent of the production has to be done in India, earlier media reports had revealed.
In the past 15 years, the Indian military has bought armaments from the USA valued at US$20 billion. India and USA share robust ties when it comes to defence deals.
The deep impact of the pandemic on commercial air travel, coupled with the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max grounding, had led to the company to record a loss of US$11.94 billion in 2020. Orders for new Boeing jets have tanked in the past two years, first from the worldwide grounding of the Max after two crashes that killed 346 people, then from a pandemic that devastated the airline industry.
In the last few months, production flaws have halted deliveries of the 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner. Deliveries have also plummeted, starving Boeing of much-needed cash.
In fact, Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet Ltd, one of Boeing largest customers, has booked a big order for its 737 MAX planes. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) recently has lifted a 22-month ban on Boeing’s 737 MAX planes. The company now has to get approvals from the Indian regulator.
However, Boeing expects the tide to turn by the end of 2021. Company officials told reporters that they expect domestic passenger traffic to return to normalcy by the end of 2021, while international traffic will return to pre-COVID levels only by 2023.
(With inputs from Agencies)