India has finalized two more mega defence deals with the US, together worth over $3.5 billion (Rs 25,000 crore) for 30 heavy-duty armed helicopters, in the run-up to President Donald Trump’s visit here on February 24-25.
These soon-to-be-inked deals will take the total value of Indian defence contracts bagged by the US just since 2007 to well past the $20 billion mark. The $2.6 billion deal for 24 MH-60 `Romeo’ multi-mission helicopters for the Navy and the $930 million one for six AH-64E Apache attack choppers for the Army are set to be cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) by next week, said sources on Wednesday.
“India will pay an initial 15% instalment for the MH-60R helicopters under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) government-to-government deal. Once the contract is inked, the first lot of the choppers will be delivered in two years. All 24 will come in four to five years,” said a source.
The “direct commercial sale” of the six Apaches, in turn, is basically a follow-on order to the 22 such helicopters already inducted by IAF under a Rs 13,952 crore deal inked with the US in September 2015. “The Army should get the deliveries of the six choppers, armed with Stinger air-to-air missiles, Hellfire Longbow air-to-ground missiles, guns and rockets, around 2022-2023,” said a source.
The MH-60Rs, which are armed with Hellfire missiles, MK-54 torpedoes and precision-kill rockets, are considered a “critical operational necessity” for the Navy because its warships are virtually bereft of such helicopters at a time when Chinese nuclear and diesel-electric submarines are making regular forays into the Indian Ocean Region. The 140-warship force has just about a dozen old Sea King and 10 Kamov-28 anti-submarine warfare helicopters operational as of now.
As was first reported by TOI in June last year, the 24 MH-60Rs and six Apache helicopters are part of the several lucrative defence deals worth over $10 billion being lined up for the US by India over the next two-three years.
The others include six more P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft ($1.8 billion), the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II for the missile shield over Delhi ($1.8 billion), 30 Sea Guardian armed drones (over $2.5 billion) and 13 big MK-45 naval gun systems for warships ($1.02 billion). “These deals will take some time to be finalized and inked,” said the source.
During his visit, President Trump is also expected to push the case for a US fighter – F/A-18, F-15EX or F-21 (upgraded version of F-16) – to be selected for the mega “Make in India” project to produce 114 jets for the IAF for around $20 billion. The US is also in contention to supply 57 multi-role fighters capable of operating from aircraft carriers for the Indian Navy.
India and the US have also identified seven defence projects for co-development and production under the bilateral Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI). These include air-launched small aerial systems (drone swarms), light-weight small arms technology, ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, targeting and reconnaissance) systems and anti-drone technology called “counter-UAS rocket, artillery and mortar systems”, as was reported by TOI in October last year.