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July 13, 2015

India all set to clear purchase of additional P-8I's to boost Navy's fire power


The US is fast consolidating its position as India's largest arms supplier with a flurry of new defence deals and joint projects, after having inked the expansive new 10-year defence framework in June and bagging contracts worth $10 billion over the last eight years.

Sources said the Manohar Parrikar-led defence acquisitions council (DAC), in its meeting slated for Tuesday, is likely to clear the decks for acquisition of another four P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for almost $1 billion.

"The contract negotiation committee (CNC) has completed its work. Now, the DAC approval is needed for the offsets deviation. The proposed contract will then go to the finance ministry for vetting before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for the final nod," said a source.

This "follow-on contract" comes even as the Navy has now inducted seven of the eight P-8Is ordered from Boeing in the $2.1 billion deal inked in January 2009. Based at the Arakkonam naval air station in Tamil Nadu, these radar-packed aircraft serve as "intelligent hawk-eyes" over the Indian Ocean. They are also armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges to take on enemy warships and submarines.

Simultaneously, Pentagon and South Block are also set to begin fresh negotiations next week for the proposed $770 million contract for M-777 ultra-light howitzers, under which the bulk of the 145 artillery guns to be acquired in the government-to-government deal will be made in India.

The 155mm/39-calibre lightweight howitzers, with a strike range over 25km range, can be swiftly airlifted to "threatened high-altitude areas" facing China, which outguns and outnumbers Indian troops all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control.

Artillery-manufacturer BAE Systems, in turn, will tie up with an Indian partner to set up a production base here on the lines of its facility at Hattiesburg (Mississippi) in the US. The Ordnance Factory Board and PSU BHEL as well as private players like L&T, Mahindra, Tata, VEM Technologies and Reliance Defence Systems are in the fray for the project.

Moreover, the deals for 22 Apache attack and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters from Boeing, together worth $2.5 billion, are now being vetted by the finance ministry before they go to the CCS for final approval, as earlier reported by TOI.

Amid all this, India and the US have also pressed the throttle on their "transformative" Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), which envisages co-development and co-production in tune with PM Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' policy.

While project agreements for military mobile generators and chemical-biological warfare protection gear have already been finalized, similar pacts for Raven mini spy drones and "roll-on, roll-off" mission modules for C-130J Super Hercules aircraft are on the cards.

But it will be the proposed joint development of jet engines and aircraft carrier design and construction technologies, which includes EMALS (electromagnetic aircraft launch systems) developed by General Atomics, that will be the big-ticket items under the DTTI.

TNN/defencenews

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