Saturday, 14 May 2011

From US with love

India may have ejected American fighters out of the $10.4 billion race to supply 126medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) but US really has no reason to crib. Decks have now been cleared for the biggest-ever Indo-US defence deal: the $4.1 billion contract for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircraft. The Globemaster deal, a direct government-to-government contract under the American FMS (foreign military sales) programme, should get the "final nod" from the Cabinet Committee on Security "within May 2011". All issues connected to costing and offsets (under which Globemaster-manufacturer Boeing will plough back 30% of the contract value into India) have been resolved.

IAF certainly needs to augment its strategic airlift capability to swiftly move combat systems and troops over large national and international distances, given that it has just over a dozen Russian-origin IL-76 `Gajraj' aircraft. Capable of carrying a payload of almost 170,000 pounds and landing even at small forward airbases with semi-prepared runways, the four-engine rugged C-17s can transport tanks and troops over 2,400 nautical miles. With mid-air refueling, C-17s can go even longer distances. Along with the C-130J `Super Hercules' aircraft already being inducted, the C-17s will play a significant role in countering China's massive build-up of military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control, which includes five fully-operational airbases in Tibet.

That's not all on the US arms deals front. India is already conducting commercial negotiations for the around $1 billion "follow-on contract" for four more P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, eight of which were earlier ordered for $2.1 billion in 2009. Similarly, negotiations for six more C-130J `Super Hercules' heavy-lift aircraft will begin soon. "IAF has already inducted two of the earlier six C-130Js ordered for $1.2 billion in 2008. Two more will come around July, with the last two in September-October," said the MoD source. So, if all this is taken into account, US has notched up sales worth around $9 billion to India in the arena of military transport and reconnaissance aircraft alone. If one adds other deals connected to military aviation, like the $822 million for 99 GE F-414 engines for Mark-II version of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and the $170 million for Harpoon Block-II anti-ship missiles, as well as the proposed ones for attack and heavy-lift helicopters, the overall figure will jump to well over $11 billion.

From US, with love:
C-17 Globemaster-III: 10 of these rugged giant strategic airlift aircraft to be inducted from 2013-14 onwards under a $4.1 billion contract. Capable of carrying a payload of 164,900 pounds after taking off even from makeshift airstrips, C-17s will give India swift power projection capabilities. Another six C-17s likely to be ordered at a later stage.

P-8I Poseidon: 12 of these long-range maritime patrol aircraft to be inducted from early-2013 onwards, costing upwards of $3 billion, to plug surveillance gaps over Indian Ocean. Armed with torpedoes, depth bombs and Harpoon missiles, P-8Is will also boost anti-warship and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

C-130J "Super Hercules": Six of these tactical airlift aircraft, customised for "special and covert operations", to be inducted within this year under a $1.2 billion contract. Negotiations in progress for another six C-130Js.

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