Boeing Co. is in talks with the Indian Navy to sell its F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets in a bid to gain a bigger share of the defense market in the South Asian country, the world's biggest arms importer.
A lot of technical evaluation has yet to take place, Gene Cunningham, Boeing's vice president for defense, 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.
India's navy last year invited proposals for 57 jets for its aircraft carriers, while its 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.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who plans to spend $250 billion in the coming years on defense equipment from fighter jets to guns and helmets, wants India and local companies to get a share of the deals it enters into by calling on foreign manufacturers to 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.