World – Govt set to ink record $2.2bn arms deal with US
NEW DELHI: The stage is being set for what will be the largest-ever Indo-US defence deal till now. New Delhi has now formally approached Washington
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for a direct government-to-government deal for acquiring 10 C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircraft, each of which comes for over a whopping $220 million.
This would well supplant the $2.1 billion contract for eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft inked last year and the $962 million one for six C-130J `Super Hercules’ planes clinched in 2007.
With US aggressively muscling into the lucrative Indian market, often bagging deals under its direct Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme instead of vying in global tenders, the Europeans are getting increasingly upset.
Some of them even see “American influence” at work behind the Indian defence ministry’s scrapping of the almost-finalised deals like the $1 billion contract for 197 Eurocopter light utility helicopters and $1.5 billion project for six Airbus-330 MRTT mid-air refuelling aircraft.
Defence ministry officials, however, dismiss such `fanciful’ claims. The biggest prize, of course, is still to be awarded: the $10.4 billion project to acquire 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft for IAF.
Two American fighters, F/A-18 `Super Hornet’ and F-16 `Falcon’, are competing with French Rafale, Russian MiG-35, Swedish Gripen and Eurofighter Typhoon in this hotly-contested race.
As for the Globemaster project, India sent `a letter of request’ for the acquisition of 10 C-17s to the US government last week after getting the nod from the Defence Acquisitions Council headed by defence minister A K Antony. “Under FMS, we will get C-17s at the same price the US government buys them from Boeing, plus some service charges,” said an MoD official.
IAF certainly needs to augment its strategic airlift capability to swiftly move large combat systems and troops over large national and international distances, given that it has barely a dozen Russian-origin IL-76 `Gajraj’ aircraft. IAF’s medium-lift fleet, in turn, includes 104 Russian AN-32 aircraft.
The massive four-engine C-17 dwarfs them all. Capable of carrying a payload of up to 170,000 pounds, it can transport tanks and troops over 2,400 nautical miles.
With mid-air refuelling, the C-17 can go even longer distances. Rugged as it is, a C-17 can even land at a small forward airbase on a semi-prepared runway or airdrop over 100 combat-ready paratroopers directly into a battlezone. “It can take-off and land in 3,000 feet or less,” said an official.
There are 212 C-17s in service around the globe at present, with the major chunk of them deployed with US Air Force. Other customers include UK, Qatar, Canada, Australia and Nato.
Incidentally, India and US have already finalised the End-Use Monitoring Agreement (EUMA), and the inking of the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) is now on the cards, to smoothen defence deals. The two pacts are required under US domestic laws to ensure compliance with sensitive technology control requirements.
Indo-US defence deals
* 2002: $190 million for 12 AN/TPQ-37 firefinder weapon-locating radars
* 2006: $53.5 million for amphibious transport vessel USS Trenton, with another $39 million for six UH-3H helicopters to operate from it
* 2007: $962 million for 6 C-130J `Super Hercules’ aircraft
* 2009: $2.1 billion for 8 P-8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft
* And now, stage set for $2.2 billion acquisition of 10 C-17 Globemaster-III aircraft
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