India, US set to fix deal on submarines

New Delhi, March 22 | Updated: Mar 23 2005, 06:01am hrs
Overcoming wrangles over product support assurances, India and United States are all set to conclude a major defence deal on American assistance for Indian naval subs in distress and for purchase of submarine rescue vehicles (SRVs).

The two countries are also in the final stage of working out a deal for purchase by India of 10 retrofitted Lockheed Martin P3C Orions long-range naval maritime spy planes to fill the gaps in the navy reconnaissance capability hit by recent crashes of two Russian-acquired IL-38 aircraft. We are in intense negotiations and are likely to sign a contract for US cover for Indian naval submarines in distress and for purchase of submarine rescue vehicles by the year-end, vice chief of the naval staff vice admiral Yashwant Prasad told newsmen here.

Washington and New Delhi almost finalised a contract for US navy cover to rescue Indian submarines in distress in 1999, when American sanctions following the Pokhran nuclear blasts hit the project.

Mr Prasad said India had already paid earnest money for the contract which already covered its German-acquired HDW SSK class conventional submarines. The US experts are now evaluating the Russian supplied Foxtrot and Kilo class submarines to point out alterations to be undertaken on them to make them capable of such air and deep sea rescue by US navy, he said.

The supply of submarine rescue vehicles along with flying kits and P3C Orions would be the second largest defence deal between the two countries in recent years.

The deal, like the previous one for supply of ANTPQ 37 fire-finding radars, would be a government to government contract, naval sources said.

American aviation giant Lockheed Martin is in strong contention for Indias over $5 billion plan to acquire 125 multi-role fighters. Naval chief admiral Arun prakash is currently in the US on a 10-day official visit and the sale of P3C Orions and contract for submarine rescue vehicles is high on his agenda during talks with Pentagon officials, the sources said.

Asked about plans to acquire P3C Orions already in service with Pakistan navy, the vice chief of naval staff said, We are looking at these seriously and they would be part of agenda of the naval chief there. He said navy wanted these spy planes to be retrofitted giving them enough residual life and was also seeking assurance of total product support.