A navigator climbs out of a Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet on the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (Photographer: Charles Crowell/Bloomberg News)

Boeing Joins Saab in Race for World's Biggest Fighter Jet Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. proposed to build fighter jets in India along with two local firms, as the U.S. giant prepares to bid for the world’s biggest combat aircraft order, joining the likes of Lockheed Martin Corp. and Saab AB.

Boeing will partner state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. and Mahindra Defense Systems to manufacture the F/A-18 Super Hornet in India at a new facility, which can also be used for other requirements, it said in an emailed statement. An Indian tender for 110 combat aircraft announced last week mandates building at least 85 percent of the order locally. The deal is likely to be at least $15 billion.

Getting new aircraft is crucial for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the South Asian nation faces increased risks from neighboring Pakistan and China at a time when the Russian MiG fighters -- India’s mainstay -- are being phased out. Local production is at the heart of Modi’s ’Make in India’ policy, which aims to promote domestic manufacturing.

Boeing’s announcement comes after Lockheed partnered with salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Group to bid for the order with its F-16 jets, and Saab teamed with billionaire Gautam Adani to offer its Gripen jets.

The country’s air force and navy require as many as 400 single- and double-engine combat aircraft, according to the government.

After scrapping an order with Dassault Aviation for 126 Rafale jets worth $11 billion in 2015, a process that took nearly a decade, Modi’s administration bought 36 jets separately to speed up the process. Under the new tender, the winner will have to deliver the first jet within three years of securing the contract.

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