Wednesday, February 21, 2024

India to ink largest-ever defence deal with US

Even as tensions with Pakistan persist in the wake of 26/11, India is now poised to ink its biggest-ever defence deal with US: the around Rs 8,500-crore contract for the supply of eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft for the Navy.
“Virtually all the steps” required for the contract to be signed, including tabling of it in the Cabinet Committee on Security for approval, have been completed, said sources on Friday.
The first of these LRMR aircraft will be delivered within four years of the contract being actually signed, with the rest being handed over by 2015, said sources.
The LRMR planes will replace the eight ageing and fuel-guzzling Russian-origin Tupolev-142Ms. Customised for India and based on the Boeing 737 commercial airliner, the radar-packed P-8I aircraft will go a long way in plugging the huge gaps in Navy’s maritime snooping capabilities with a range of over 600 nautical miles.
Incidentally, Navy is also in the hunt for six new medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft for around Rs 1,600 crore to achieve its aim of an effective three-tier surveillance grid in the entire Indian Ocean.
Both Navy and Coast Guard have come in for some criticism for not being able to pre-empt the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, even though the two forces maintain that they did not get “actionable intelligence” in time.
The P-8I aircraft will also be armed with Harpoon missiles, torpedoes and depth bombs to give them potent anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare capability. Moreover, they “will enhance interoperability” between the Indian and American navies, in keeping with the growing strategic embrace between the two countries.
The LRMR deal will supplant last year’s $962-million contract signed with US for six C-130J `Super Hercules’ aircraft for use by Indian special forces.
US is still, however, leagues behind Russia, Israel and France in supplying military hardware and software to India. While Russia notches up sales worth about $1.5 billion to India every year, Israel chalks up an annual tally of around $1 billion.
Apart from the C-130J deal, America’s only big-ticket deal with India in recent years has been the $190-million contract in 2002 to supply 12 AN/TPQ-37 firefinder weapon-locating radars.
Then, of course, India last year acquired amphibious transport vessel USS Trenton for $48.23 million, with the six UH-3H helicopters to operate from it costing another $39 million.
During its quest for LRMR planes, India had earlier rejected the US offer to lease two P-3C Orion reconnaissance aircraft under a $133-million contract. India, of course, remains unhappy over the American decision to sell eight more P-3C Orion aircraft to Pakistan, which already has two such planes in its inventory.

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