India-US defence ties flying high: Maritime patrol aircraft on way


In an increasingly fragile and volatile neighbourhood, India is all set to upgrade its arsenal with a host of new high-tech acquisitions. This also comes at a time when the United States is all set to overtake Russia, Israel and France as India’s largest arms supplier with deals worth $10 billion inked since 2007. With Pakistan and China inking some major deals in the recent past, this acceleration in defence relationship with the US is set to boost the  modernization of India’s armed forces. It would also help India strengthen its position with volatility increasing in the neighbourhood.

China Factor

One of the major acquisitions is going to be the deal of $1 billion for four P 8I planes that would be used for maritime patrol. This comes in the backdrop of China strengthening its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as a part of its Maritime Silk Road strategy. With recent reports of Chinese submarines docking in Karachi lurking past Indian waters, it has raised alarm bells in the security establishment at New Delhi.

Pentagon and South Block are also set to begin negotiations in the next few days over the proposed $770 million deal for M-777 ultra-light howitzers under which the bulk of 145 artillery guns to be acquired in a government to government deal, will be made in India. This is also in sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, which is expected to spur indigenization of the country’s defence sector.

Make in India

Marking a new phase in their burgeoning defence ties, New Delhi and Washington are working on the template of co-development and co-production facility in India under their Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).

The deal for 22 Apache and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters from Boeing for around $2.5 billion are also under consideration by India’s Finance Ministry before it goes to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for approval. Apart from that a host of other deals such as the Raven mini spy drones and “roll-on, roll-off” mission modules for C-130J Super Hercules aircraft are on the cards.

While China outnumbers and outguns India along the 4,057 km Line of Actual Control (LAC), the new acquisitions and much-needed modernisation of weapons will help buttress India’s security apparatus in the region. The joint development of jet engines and aircraft carrier design and construction technologies, which includes EMALS (electromagnetic aircraft launch systems) developed by General Atomics, will be big-ticket items under the DTTI.

With unstable countries on India’s western front and a powerful China on the other side, the strengthening of defence ties between India and US augurs well for both countries economically as well as strategically in the long-term.