India is set to become the first country to buy a military aircraft from Japan since World War II, senior ministry officials told dna on condition of anonymity.
The agenda for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's four-day visit to Japan, from August 31 to September 3, is to sign a long pending civil nuclear deal. But the two are more likely to attract attention when Delhi signs a deal for the purchase of six Utility Seaplane Mark 2 (US-2) amphibian aircraft. Sources in the South Block, which houses the defence ministry, said that efforts are being made to finalise the deal to boost stronger defence ties between New Delhi and Tokyo.
Japan had stopped all arms exports after World War-II, which ended with the absolute destruction of two Japanese cities — Hiroshima and Nagasaki — by the United States' atom bombs. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently ended the decades old self-imposed ban to ease military sale to foreign countries.
The Indian navy and the coast guard require amphibious aircraft for patrolling and surveillance on the Indian coast, including in the island territories of the Andaman and Nicobar.
The 47-tonne US-2 aircraft doesn't require a long airstrip to take-off or to land. It is capable of taking off from land and water (300-metre stretch). It can carry loads of upto 18 tonnes and can be engaged in search and rescue operations. With a range of over 4,500 km, it can patrol areas 1,800 km away and react to an emergency by landing 30 armed troops even in 10-foot waves.
Defence ministry officials claim that Japanese firm i.e ShinMaywa Industries was the only one to have come close to match the requirements of the Indian navy's Request for Information (RFI) about amphibious aircraft in 2011.
Apart from buying the six aircraft, India will also seek joint manufacturing of parts, said officials privy to the development. "Besides buying six US-2 off the shelf from Japan, India could also seek approval of production of some parts for the aircraft here in India. We have learn't that Japan has recently eased its rules for the sale of defence equipment and the subsequent transfer of technology," said an officer, who is in the know.