After a brief period of turbulence, the $1.65-billion India-Japan US-2i amphibian search and rescue aircraft deal appears to be back on track. The Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard are seeking 12-18 of these platforms to expand their reach and capability.
Sources told FE that ahead of the India-Japan annual summit scheduled for November, the proposal for the US-2i would be put up before the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) for approval or Acceptance of Necessity.
The DAC meet is scheduled for October. Once the DAC approvals come through, the next level of discussions will then take place. Since 2011, discussions have been ongoing for this aircraft, but there has not been much of an action on the deal so far.
Both New Delhi and Tokyo have been discussing and attempting to iron out all issues related to the purchase of ShinMaywa Industries’ US-2i amphibious aircraft.
A diplomatic source said, “Recognising the advantage of selling to India, the Japanese government has offered to negotiate much lower price for these machines.”
The Japanese have offered to not only ‘Make in India’ for the world, but parts for the aircraft will be manufactured in India, setting up MRO and re-exports.
Also, due to the slow pace, ShinMaywa Industries have downsized their office here in New Delhi.
The Indian government has been keen on acquiring the ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft from Japan as part of their expanding bilateral strategic partnership, with both nations wary of China’s assertive behaviour in the Asia-Pacific region.
However, there is no concept of foreign military sales in Japan, hence, the DAC has to give an approval before it moves forward.
It was during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the country for talks with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe that the two directed the joint working group to “accelerate progress in the discussions and preparations for a road map for the development of the Indian aircraft industry through the US-2i aircraft cooperation”.
Though the plane is mainly designed for air-sea search and rescue operations, it can also rapidly transport 30 combat-ready soldiers to ‘hot zones’ in an emergency.
“The aircraft will give a huge boost to our operational logistics in areas like the far-flung but strategically critical Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It can also land spares and equipment in close proximity to warships on the high seas,” said an official.