The decision for the next step in the long-pending Japanese amphibian plane US-2i is expected to get delayed further as the next Defence Acquisition Council cannot take place, since there is no Chief of Integrated Staff (CISC) in place in the ministry of defence.
The CISC falls under the Integrated Defence Headquarters (HQ Integrated Defence Staff), whose main task according to experts is to provide domain expertise to the defence minister in all proposals under capital defence acquisition.
Now, the Japanese side, which has been waiting for the government to take the next step in the purchase of the US-2i, is mulling shifting focus from New Delhi to Kuala Lumpur which has shown interest in the amphibian aircraft. In fact, this concern related to the delay from the Indian side would be raised by Japanese defence minister Gen Nakatani during a meeting with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar in June on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue 2016 slated to be held in Singapore.
“The Japanese defence minister, who was expected to be in India on April 29, had postponed his travel due to earthquake in his country,” sources in the MoD told FE, adding, “The two ministers will now meet in Singapore.”
According to industry sources, “The Japanese side has also been waiting for the amended Defence Procurement Policy-2016, which is yet to be available for the companies wanting to do defence business in India as the DPP-2016 is simpler than DPP-2013.” In the absence of the Foreign Military Sales in Japan, the whole project has been put on a slow burner. “Though the deal was initiated at the highest level — the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministry of external affairs — the MoD has been going slow on it,” said officials who have been following the deal closely.
While the Army, Navy and the Coast Guard are supporting the requirement of these planes, “It will be like an AON that the Navy requires 12 US-2i as of now, and the commercial negotiations for them can begin. The Coast Guard, in turn, may require five such planes,” explained a defence ministry source. During the talks between Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, the two directed the JWG 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”.
The US-2i is quite a unique aircraft, capable as it is of short take-offs from land as well as water with a range of over 4,500 km. Powered by four big turbo-props, it can land even on rough seas amid three-metre high waves.