Boeing keen to sell F/A-18 Hornets to India, may agree to make locally

Boeing Co is in talks to sell its F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets to the Indian Navy, which is reviewing proposals for 57 jets – though several  evaluation has yet to take place, Gene Cunningham, Boeing's vice president for defence, space and security, told reporters at the Singapore Airshow.

The company is also seeing opportunities for its KC-46 multirole tanker in India and other countries, Cunningham said on Monday, as US firms seek a bigger share of the defense market in India, the world's biggest arms importer.

India's navy last year invited proposals for 57 jets for its aircraft carriers, while the Indian Air Force is seeking at least 100 planes. Boeing and Saab AB have said both the orders should be combined, which would make it the world's biggest fighter jet order in play.

Boeing has indicated it would be willing to locate manufacturing operations in India if it wins large enough contracts in the country, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government plans to spend $250 billion on defense equipment in the coming years, from fighter jets to guns and helmets.

Keen on 'make in India', Modi wants local companies to get a share of the deals it enters into by mandating that foreign manufacturers make products locally. Boeing, Lockheed Martin Corp and others have said they will produce in India if they win contracts large enough to make investments worthwhile.

Boeing expects the US to decide on the T-X program in mid-2018, Cunningham said. Boeing and Lockheed are vying for a $16-billion opportunity to build the US Air Force's new training jet, with foreign sales set to provide an additional boost. Rising F-35 production and an aging fleet of trainer aircraft drive plans to build 350 of the T-X jets.