US Pitches for Attack Helos Deal with India
|The Indo-US bi-lateral trade and defence cooperation is continually expanding its scope as both countries are forging increased interaction with each other. While the US has finalised deals worth $5 billion for ten C-17 Globemaster III military transport and 104 General Electric engines for Tejas LCA is around $820 million, the US is now eyeing the $10.2 billion deal for 126 multi-medium role combat aircraft (MMRCA) as well as the $1.4 billion deal for 22 attack helicopters for India.|
In order to pitch for the two US companies that are vying for the MMRCA deal, a high-level trade mission from the US led by, the US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is expected to arrive in India. The high-level trade mission will coincide with the Aero-India 2011 airshow in Bangalore in the second week of February. The trade mission will focus on intensifying Indo-US strategic ties and promote high-technology defence sales between the two nations besides promoting the two US firms for the prestigious MMRCA deal.
The mega deal for 126 MMRCA was initiated in August 2007 and is currently in the concluding phase since the Indian Air Force (IAF) has conducted the flight and weapons evaluation of the six competing aircraft, namely the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 60, Saab Gripen, and RSK MiG-35. According to sources, the Indian Defence Ministry will be selecting the contestants by April this year. The offset liability for the MMRCA deal has been raised from 30 per cent to 50 per cent and in order to reach the contract stage, the issue of offsets must be cleared.
The US has stressed that Indo-US co-development of high-technology weaponry can achieve increased momentum by greater freedom in technology exchange and defence import/ export as well as relaxation on controls. The recent visit by the US President to India has paved the way for increased bi-lateral trade and defence cooperation. India will also have access to critical technology, software and sensitive equipment the US has removed India from the Country Classification list.
In addition, an assurance made by the US President during his recent visit will also be fulfilled soon. The US will remove all civil space and defence-related entities including the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) from the Department of Commerce "Entity List” as promised. A formal notification to lift the ban by the US Department of Commerce for this purpose is in an advanced stage and may get issued before the scheduled India visit of the US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke during the air Aero-India 2011 in February. The US will be enacting other India-specific export control changes as well.
The US is also pushing Boeing’s AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter to India which is pitted against the Russian Mi-28 Havoc in the race for the attack helicopter deal for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The US has already made an advance notification so that, in the event of the proposal being selected, the US may move as quickly as possible to implement the sale. The notification lists out what India demands as part of the ‘complete package worth around $1.4 billion. Apart from the 22 Apaches, it includes 812 AGM-114L-3 Hellfire Longbow missiles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hellfire-II missiles, 245 Stinger Block I-92H missiles, 12 AN/APG-78 fire-control radars besides other things.