Singapore Air Show

Indonesia Set to Buy Chinooks

 - February 16, 2016, 1:20 AM
Some 55 years after its first flight, Boeing’s CH-47 heavy-lift helicopter remains in production. If the parties conclude a proposed deal, as many as eight more soon may be going to Indonesia, Boeing’s Jeff Kohler acknowledged yesterday at Singapore Airshow 2016.

Indonesia looks set to become the 24th country to acquire the Boeing CH-47 Chinook. “They have asked the U.S. government for a Letter of Offer, and I’m meeting them here,” said Jeff Kohler, v-p global sales for Boeing Defense, Space & Security yesterday. The number required was still uncertain, he added. Previous media reports about this potential sale have speculated on four to eight helicopters.

Reviewing other sales prospects in the Asian region at a media roundtable, Kohler said that Japan would probably buy “a few more” V-22 Ospreys. That country became the first international customer for the tilt-rotor last June, with an order for five. At that time, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the potential sale involving 17 going to Japan. But Boeing officials freely admit, the sticker price is an initial hurdle to overcome. Kohler said the company was crafting a multi-year buy proposal for the Pentagon that would increase the scope for international buys. Singapore had expressed some interest, he added.

The long saga of Indian new-fighter procurement cropped up, after Boeing chief executive officer Dennis Muilenberg told local media there earlier this month that the company was “having conversations” about manufacturing the F/A-18 Super Hornet in India. That jet was eliminated from India’s Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) evaluation, but the country later chose to abandon the 126-aircraft MMRCA program that included licensed production, in favor of an order for 36 Rafales from the French production line. That contract is still not signed.

Kohler admitted that no new set of requirements had emerged, but that in the context of New Delhi’s “Make in India” policy, Boeing was best-placed to “help-create an Indian aviation ecosystem.” He added: “We think it’s a great opportunity, and we have let the U.S. government know that we’re ready to jump in.”

Japan is considering an upgrade for its F-15C/D Eagle fleet, similar to the one being pursued by the U.S. Air Force. Kohler noted that Boeing was currently modernizing the Saudi fleet. “Those airplanes will be around for years, because of their excellent range, speed and payload,” he added.

Repeat orders for two Boeing 737-based products are in prospect, according to Kohler. Korea will likely ask for two more Wedgetail AEW aircraft, since the four delivered previously are flying intensively. The Indian Navy has expressed interest in acquiring more than the eight P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs) that they are currently receiving.

Kohler noted that the P-8 was the only MPA on the market with “integrated lethal capability” – by which he meant internally-carried torpedoes. In a pointed reference to competitor offerings of MPAs based on business jets, Kohler said that, “putting weapons under wings is a challenge.” Boeing does also offer a business jet in this market - for maritime surveillance only. Its Bombardier Challenger 605 MSA (maritime surveillance aircraft) has not yet attracted a buyer, but Kohler said Boeing was still eyeing a half-dozen prospects.