US defence secretary Ashton Carter's two-day visit to India in early June is expected to raise the levels of bilateral strategic and defence co-operation between the two countries, senior Indian military officials have told IHS Jane's .
Carter will sign a 10-year India-US Defence Framework Agreement and fast-track the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), under which the two countries will co-develop and co-produce military equipment in India.
Industry sources said that under the DTTI, which Carter initiated as deputy defence secretary in 2012, the US was expected to offer the Textron AirLand Scorpion light-attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft currently being developed to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, who is believed to have expressed interest in the Scorpion, believes the twin-seat platform can double as an intermediate jet trainer (IJT). The IAF badly needs an IJT due to delays to the Sitara (Star) platform, which Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has been developing since 2005.
At the 2014 Farnborough Airshow, Textron officials told IHS Jane's that the Scorpion would cost less than USD20 million to procure and around USD3,000 per hour to operate. The company has also outlined a sales target of 2,000 platforms to international operators over the coming years. It did not respond to requests for comment on the potential deal with India.
Approved during President Barack Obama's Delhi visit in January, the defence framework agreement extends the scope of joint military exercises and inter-operability, intelligence sharing, counter-terrorism, and maritime co-operation.
It also expands the frequency of reciprocal visits by senior military and defence personnel.
"We are looking to do more in terms of [military] exercises and joint training and interoperability with our Indian counterparts," US Ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma said at the first US-India Think Tank Summit in Delhi on 28 April.
"Hopefully we will provide more in terms of increasing India's indigenous capability to make defence products," he said in reference to Carter's visit.
Verma said the two sides were "tracking" 77 different initiatives that had emerged from Obama's visit. "We have re-energised or launched 30 new initiatives, 30 different dialogues," he said without elaborating.
Officials said that during his visit, Carter was also expected to review progress in the four 'pathfinder' technologies that the US had agreed to transfer to India under the DTTI.
These include the know-how to co-develop and jointly manufacture AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven battlefield unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and roll-on/roll-off ISR modules for the IAF's 11 Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 transport aircraft.
Two additional technologies - to develop and build mobile electric hybrid power systems (MEHPS) and integrated Protection Ensemble Increment-2 clothing for protection against nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare - are also being transferred.
The two technical working groups set up earlier in 2015 to jointly develop aircraft engines and electromagnetic aircraft launch systems (EMALS) for aircraft carriers will also be reviewed during the defence secretary's visit.
Meanwhile, Carter is expected to push India to sign a USD2.5 billion contract for 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache and 15 Boeing CH-47F Chinook helicopters for the IAF, negotiations for which were completed in late 2013.
On 1 April, Boeing agreed to hold the price for both platforms for three months until 30 June, but is believed to have informed the IAF that it would be unable to do so thereafter. Industry sources said this was the ninth instance that Boeing had agreed to keep the deal going at the same price.
Under India's Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), any change in the price of a negotiated contract requires it to be re-tendered.