In what will — and should — be seen as a demonstration of local industrial prowess, the first Indian-built AH-64 Apache fuselage has been delivered ahead of schedule, a major contributor to customer satisfaction in the enormously expensive aerospace business. Tata Boeing Aerospace Ltd (TABL), the joint venture between the U.S. and Indian giants, today announced the delivery of the first AH-64 fuselage built at its Hyderabad facility. This first fuselage, which will be transported to Boeing’s Apache final integration and test facility in Mesa, Arizona, is understood to be for the U.S. Army.
The Indian Air Force is scheduled to begin receiving 22 contracted AH-64E Apache helicopters in March next year. Later fuselages could come from Hyderabad, though initial deliveries will be from Boeing’s current fuselage supplier, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). According to Boeing, the Hyderabad facility “[W]ill be the sole global producer of fuselages for AH-64 Apache helicopter delivered by Boeing to its global customers including the U.S. Army. The facility will also produce secondary structures and vertical spar boxes for the multi-role combat helicopter.”
The early delivery of the first Indian Apache fuselage is hugely significant, coming as it does at a time when the government’s Make in India campaign remains under harsh scrutiny on what it has really been able to deliver, years after its high profile unveiling. On the other hand, the achievement comes from the Tata stable, a group that has slowly but robustly built up a reputation for efficiency in the difficult defence space, managing to forge sourcing and manufacturing partnerships with practically every major airframer in the world, including Lockheed-Martin, Airbus, Saab and Sikorsky. The true test of the Make in India template will be in India’s quest for new fighter jets, a contest in which Tata teams up with Lockheed-Martin for the F-16, while Boeing has partnered with HAL and Mahindra Defence.
Early deliveries usually translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, and are generally transferred to buying customers. For instance, the Indian government benefited from nearly $10 million in cost savings on its acquisition of C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft as a result of early deliveries to Lockheed-Martin from its airframe suppliers. Boeing and Tata will be looking to sustain the tempo of early deliveries, a major incentive and draw for further orders and industrial work from the Hyderabad facility. The wave of confidence it sends out at a time of spiraling costs will be timely too.
“This is a major step forward in Boeing and Tata Advanced Systems’ continued commitment to make advanced, high quality aerostructures in India,” said Pratyush Kumar, president, Boeing India. “Our investments in technology, capability and skilling are clearly paying off as evident from the quality and speed at which this delivery milestone has been achieved. As we accelerate our efforts, we see this as a major step towards future opportunities to pursue the co-development of integrated systems in aerospace and defence.”
Sukaran Singh, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tata Advanced Systems, said, “The timely delivery of the AH–64 Apache helicopter fuselage marks a milestone in our collaborative journey with Boeing. Our partnership reflects a continued commitment to develop aerospace and defence manufacturing ecosystem in India. The delivery of the fuselage within a year of the facility being operational is a huge boost to indigenous manufacturing and also demonstrates our commitment to deliver high quality products within a short span of time.”