Aviation

$2 bn armed drone deal to take US-India’s defence tally to over $12 bn in 10 years

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As India and the US try to find ways to revive the 2+2 dialogue that got delayed due to scheduling issues from Washington, defence deals worth billions are in the pipeline. At least two deals at an advanced stage could see a formal signing in the coming months.

The US has been emerged as a major defence supplier to India in the past decade with deals worth over $12 billion already inked, which includes a $ 4.7-billion transactionfor C 17 transport aircraft.

Discussions will be taken forward on the estimated $2-billion deal for armed Predator drones in the coming months. The contract is fraught with controversy though given the US insistance on signing foundation agreements on advance and reservations it has on the S 400 air defence system purchase from Russia.

Experts are cynical about the future of the deal, given the current US stance on sanctions and sharing of cutting-edge technology with nations like India that are heavily invested in Russian arms.

Talks are also to be taken forward on the purchase of Apache attack helicopters for the Indian Army.

The fleet of six attack choppers to augment an earlier purchase for the air force is likely to cost over $ 900 million. However, the complicated process of getting Congressional clearances for the proposal is still pending.

Another chopper deal on the anvil is the estimated $ 2-billion contract for 24 new naval multirole helicopters for the Indian Navy under the Foreign Military Sales pact. These desperately needed choppers are to be cleared by the defence ministry shortly.

The largest deal that could take place between the two nations is to meet India’s need for new generation fighter jets. Taken up under the strategic partnership model, the contract to build 116 new fighters in India has two US contenders – Boeing with the F/A 18 and Lockheed Martin with the F 16. This deal is expected to be upwards of $ 15 billion but will see tough competition from European contenders.

The Boeing fighter jet is also one of the two in competition for a naval requirement of carrier borne combat aircraft. The Navy needs 57 of these fighters, with the only competition being from the French Rafale.

By: ET

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