Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Decks cleared for biggest ever Indo-US defence deal

India may have ejected American fighters out of the $10.4 billion race to supply 126 medium 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.

Defence ministry sources on Thursday said 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 this month".

"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," said a source.

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.

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