T he US Navy has compared the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet to fifth generation fighter aircraft, making a strong pitch for its selection in the 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contest of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
In presentations made last month to Indian journalists visiting the Naval Air Station, Oceana at Norfolk in Virginia, also the largest naval base in the world, Commander Mike Goska of the US Navy, compared the fighter to fifth generation combat aircraft like the F-35 and the F-22 and indicated that the US Navy plans for the F-35 to complement the Super Hornet.
Dr. Vivek Lall, Vice President and India Country Head, Boeing Defense, Space and Security, explains, “Many of the same technologies are common across all three of these next-generation fighters, and the Super Hornet is available today.”
According to Goska, the US Navy intends to keep the aircraft in service beyond 2035. Indeed, the US Navy is currently in the process of placing an order for 124 F/A-18 Super Hornets, at a price that a Reuters report says would come to around US $5.3 billion in a multi-year deal with each aircraft coming to around US $40 million, not including US $10 million for ‘government-furnished equipment’, less than the price of US $ 57 million listed on a US Navy website.
But even though the size of the buy is similar, with the US Navy’s 124 to the IAF MMRCA’s 126, Boeing officials are unable to indicate whether this figure could be taken as an indicator of the price tag for India in the event of the aircraft winning the Indian contest, even as they failed to confirm the prices indicated for the US Navy in the report.
In the event of the Super Hornet becoming the MMRCA, the ensuing contract would be an FMS (Foreign Military Sale) between India and the United States, which would also provide the IAF the benefits of economies of scale. “Under the FMS system, the US DoD (Department of Defense) is committed to procuring FMS defense articles and services under the same contractual provisions used for its own procurements. This system is designed to acquire the required quality items at the lowest feasible price from qualified sources and to provide for contract administration. FMS and DoD orders are often consolidated to obtain economy-of-scale buys and therefore lower unit prices,” says Lall.
“Under the FMS system, the foreign purchaser is charged a nominal fee for the contracting and administrative services provided by DoD. This fee is currently 3.8 per cent of the value of the contract and ensures that the DoD does not make a profit or take a loss on a Foreign Military Sale,” he adds.
If the actual sale price is lower than than the estimate made in the Letter of Acceptance, then the unspent money would be returned to India as the US government is not allowed to make a profit on an FMS deal.
Your correspondent visited the United States recently at the invitation of the Boeing Company.