Boeing has received a licence from the US government to offer its F-15EX fighter jet to the Indian Air Force

F-15EX Fighter Jet For India

Boeing will compete with Sweden's Gripen and France's Rafale among others for the Indian Air Force's plan to buy 114 multi-role aircraft to replace its Soviet-era fleet.

The F-15EX was exhibited at the Aero India 2021 in Bengaluru. The F-15EX undertook its first flight and Boeing tweeted, "Check out the F-15EX as it makes its historic first flight. F-15EX is built on a digital thread, allowing it to also serve as a testbed to incorporate future tech and capability for the US Air Force."

The F-15EX fighter jet is set to be incorporated into the US Air Force later this year after it completed its test flight over St. Louis in the US. Last year, the US had ordered Boeing to build eight F-15EX fighters as part of 144 jets to be incorporated later.

India had already ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets and eight super jets from France have already arrived in India giving the Indian Air Force an edge over its chief adversaries - Pakistan and China.

India and France had last week taken part in a five-day mega air exercise near Jodhpur with IAF's Rafale fighter jets will be taking part in the complex air manoeuvres to enhance operational coordination with the French Air Force.

The exercise named 'Ex-Desert Knight 21' took place at a time when the Indian Air Force has been keeping all its frontline bases across the country on a high state of operational readiness amid the India-China border standoff in eastern Ladakh.

IAF's Future Needs

According to Boeing officials, US and Indian officials have held discussions on F-15EX fighter jets. 

The move comes after the IAF two years ago had issued an RFI (request for information) or initial tender to acquire 114 jets at a cost of around $18 billion, which is said to be the world's biggest military procurements in recent years.

According to Boeing, built on a digital thread, F-15EX serves as a pathfinder for the Department of Defence's DevSeOps initiative aimed at developing secure, flexible and agile software.

Boeing says F15EX enables rapid technology insertion that ensures the platform's relevance for decades.

Lockheed Offers F-21 Fighters

India and the United States have built close defence ties, with the Indian military buying over $20 billion worth of weapons in the last 15 years.

Lockheed Martin is also pitching its F-21 fighter to the Indian Air Force, offering to build the plane in the country to win the deal estimated to be worth more than $18 billion.

Boeing is bullish on India for both its defence and commercial aviation businesses, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has hit demand for air travel, forcing airlines to first get their finances in order before ordering new planes.

Boeing expects domestic passenger traffic to return to 2019 levels by the end of this year, Salil Gupte, the company's India head said, adding international traffic would return to pre-COVID levels only by 2023.

One of the plane maker's biggest customers is Indian low-cost carrier SpiceJet Ltd, which has a large order for its narrow body 737 MAX planes.

Boeing on Wednesday got the green light from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to return its 737 MAX planes to service after a 22-month ban and Gupte said it was working to get approvals from the Indian regulator.

Hornets For India

As Rafale aircrafts touched down in India, Boeing had got busy trying to sell the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet which it says is the "most lethal, advanced, combat-proven, multi-role frontline fighter-jet."

"The Block III version which is currently being manufactured for the United States Navy will enable the Indian armed forces to challenge the next generation of adversaries," the Boeing company says.

More than 700 F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets are in operation today.

"F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet will offer superior economics to the Indian armed forces in the form of low-cost of acquisition, operations and high mission readiness," the company declared.

The super fighter has some tactically dangerous features as it can conduct air reconnaissance, air defence, and maritime roles along with enhanced computing and data link, advanced cockpit system, signature improvements making it an all-purpose fighting hawk.

According to reports, a pair of Navy F/A-18F Super Hornets on the USS Nimitz conducted the airstrikes against ISIS hideouts in Iraq’s Wadi al-Shai in Kirkuk province as part of Inherent Resolve.

IAF's Strike Capability

The Indian Air Force(IAF) has been trying to boost its air power ever since the Balakot strikes in February, 2019, especially after Chinese incursion in May last year, the IAF has moved its Rafale jets to the upper Himalayas in an attempt to thwart the PLA Air Force.

In fact, India's Air Chief RKS Bhadauria had said recently that "The moment Indian Rafales were brought in, their J-20 was there" while adding, "They had brought their J-20 fighter aircraft to areas close to eastern Ladakh."

"We know their actions and capabilities," India's air chief said on China's capabilities. Bhadauria said Rafale fighter jets had caused worries in the Chinese camp.