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INDO-US DEFENCE CO-OPERATION EMERGING TREND

The Indo-US relations have their own dynamics and imperatives. The recent new framework of Indo-US defence relationship has helped in collaboration in defence and in other sector as well.

Indo-US relations have their own dynamics and imperatives. The ties between the two countries have witnessed rapid expansion in different fields from trade to science, technology and defence in the recent past. In 2001, both the countries affirmed their commitments to transforming the bilateral relationship and inherent strength. The civil nuclear energy cooperation, the 'New Framework of India-U.S. Defense Relations' has helped in intensification in defence trade, joint exercises, personnel exchanges, collaboration and cooperation in maritime security and counter-piracy, and exchanges between each of the three services.

The Unites States (US) has been one of the top supplier of defence items to India. The trade with India has increased many fold from 2013-14 till 2015-16 and it will continue to rise. The orders placed between 2013-16 on some of the leading supplier countries is as under:-

If we closely look at figures of the orders placed by India for supplying arms, USA stood first, Russia stood second, Israel is in the third position, and France come the fourth position.

Recent Procurements from US

Some of the major procurement in last few years demonstrate that  there is an exponential rise in Defence trade with US as shown below:

Deals in Pipeline

  • Buying 22 Sea Guardian Remotely Piloted Vehicles for the Indian Navy, worth around $2 billion.
  • India is most likely to go for FMS route to buy engines for the IAF's Jaguar aircrafts from Honeywell. Worth - $670 Million
  • India's Light Utility Helicopter and Naval Multi Role Helicopter (NMRH) program, for which US firms - Sikorsky, Bell Helicopter have shown interest.
  • US defence giant Lockheed Martin offers to set up F-16 jets Manufacturing facility in India and has teamed-up with India's Tata Group.
  • Sale of 38,034 M50 general purpose masks; Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST), which consists of 38,034 each: suits, pairs of trousers, pairs of gloves, pairs of boots and NBC bags; 854 aprons; 854 alternative aprons; 9,509 Quick Doff Hoods; and 114,102 M61 filters. Also included in the potential sale is training; technical data; U.S. Government technical assistance; staging/consolidation; transportation; and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is $75 million.
  • Indian Navy's RFI for procurement of 57 Carrier-Based Multirole Warplane - US Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet is in the competition.
  • 16 Multi-Role, New Generation Carrier-Based Fighter Aircrafts from Lockheed Martin, worth - Over $1 Billion. The company has already made the presentation to the ministry
  • Aegis Missile Defence System from Lockheed Martin. Presentation already made by manufacturer Lockheed martin after receiving the RFI for newer generation of aircraft was received from the Indian Navy. These are for the seven frigates built under Project 17 A.
  • Hawkeye E-2D aircraft from Northrop Grumman. Worth - $ 1.3 Billion, for which the company has given a presentation to Indian Government on Hawkeye E-2D aircraft for Indian Navy.

Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI)

The role of DTTI in developing new areas of technology cooperation in the defence sector through co-development and co-production assumes significance. It would help United States to tap the Indian market potential and at the same time, technology knowhow would make India less dependent on manufacturer at the time of repairing, upgrading and support. DTTI Joint Working Groups are formed for the followings:-

  • Chemical-Biological project
  • Intelligence
  • Surveillance and Reconnaissance
  • Jet Engine Technology
  • Naval Systems
  • Other Systems
  • Mobile Electric Hybrid Power Sources
  • Air Systems
  • Aircraft Carrier Technology

DTTI aims at enhancing the existing Defence Policy Group which lays out the path for future defence cooperation and will be significant as it could take the government's 'Make-in-India' initiative further.

Identified Pathfinder Projects

In terms of tangible deliverables, the two countries have identified and formalised 'pathfinder projects' for co-production and co-development understandings which are likely to be ice-breakers. The “pathfinder projects” include:

  • Next-generation Raven mini Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (a micro-UAVs) that infantry platoons can launch for battlefield surveillance. The AeroVironment RQ-11 Raven, 10 km range, hand-launched surveillance UAV, which was inducted into US army in 2001 and is currently used by 23 countries including Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for tactical surveillance. AeroVironment developing the next generation Cheel UAV along with Dynamatic Technologies. The prototype is expected to be ready soon.
  • Roll-on, roll-off kits for US-supplied C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, which are changeable aircraft interiors that allow the C-130J to be quickly configured for different missions like para-dropping, cargo-carrying, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance and medical evacuation.
  • Mobile electric hybrid power (MEHP) a non-grid-tied smart power system with output ranging from 300W to 800KW to augment traditional generators on the battlefield. Source for various utilizations, which could potentially be scaled up into an “air-independent power system” for submarines.
  • Uniform Integrated Protection Ensemble Increment II or protective clothing for soldiers in nuclear, chemical or biologically contaminated battlefields.
  • General Atomics Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System for India's second indigenous aircraft carrier;
  • Hot section jet engine technology by GE for unspecified projects.
  • Possible cooperation on development of advanced jet engine technology.

Indian Requirement Projections

India has requested for the detailed proposals and licence requirements under the bilateral DTTI for the under mentioned key advanced technologies:-

  • Hot-engine technology for indigenous light combat aircraft Mark-II to be powered by GE-414 jet engine. This technology allows fighter to operate in hot weather conditions like in deserts without any possibility of an engine failure.
  • Raytheon-manufactured Signature Aperture Radar that can penetrate thick forests.
  • Stealth-coating technology. The coating deadens radar images and would give Indian jets minimum radar profile and maximum survivability in hostile conditions.
  • Long-endurance high-altitude UAV, the Global Hawk, being manufactured by Northrop Grumman. Equipped with synthetic aperture radar, the drone can fly at an altitude of 65,000 feet, stay air-bound for more than 14 hours and survey upto 40,000 sq km terrain in a day.
  • Textron-manufactured Scorpion mutation bomb, used for protecting military installations.
  • India has renewed pitch to acquire armed drones from the US, to meet a requirement of the air force for a stealth cross border strike option. US has already offered unarmed, reconnaissance version of the Predator for an Indian Navy requirement. However reluctance referring international regulations on Indian request for armed Predator drones as India has not signed two military pacts - the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA).

Emerging Co-operation and Issues

The present Indian govt focus on the imperative needs of India's military modernisation and the creation of a world-class defence industry. India's interest in enhancing defence manufacturing in India under Make-in-India initiative. Some of the  US firms are willing to share platforms by encouraging co-production and co-development efforts to realise joint projects, but apprehensive of  transfer critical military technology developed at enormous cost and want to retain control over technology even if they are allowed to set up a production line for fighter jets and other equipment on Indian soil and, secondly, that they do not want to be held liable for any defects in equipment jointly produced with Indian counterparts.

To be sure, most of these deals which come as a result of the offset obligations of foreign defence manufacturers. Once the offset obligation is over, the real test of the facility will start. Tatas, like others, will then have to compete with others in the global supply chain.

Sum Up

There is some simmering dissent  which cautions that initiating the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), US is  trying to enter the Indian defence market from the back door by avoiding the long queue of Indian and foreign players at the front.  Though, it helps US to tap the Indian market potential, but at the same time, knowhow of technology would make the India less dependent on manufacturer at the time of repairing, upgrading and support. India-US defence relations ties are commercial in nature, as hardly any convergence in strategic interests between the two countries. Notwithstanding above, the two countries will continue to deal and the ties will only become stronger because of the huge economic potential in the two countries. Hence, the role of DTTI in developing new areas of technology cooperation in the defence sector through co-development and co-production assumes significance.

 

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