India to talk fighter jets, unmanned drones, communications systems with the US Defence Secretary

In 2016, the US had designated India as a Major Defence Partner, and this was then in 2018 elevated to Strategic Trade Authorization tier 1 status.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin
US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin will visit India later this month. (File image)

Deepening of the Comprehensive Global Strategic partnership, military trade, Indo-Pacific, the Quad, as well as multilateral military drills are some of the major issues that will be the focus of talks when the new US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J Austin comes later this month.

The India-US military trade is expected to touch $ 25 billion soon.

Both countries share a vision of free and open Indo-Pacific. As has been reported, in 2016, the US had designated India as a Major Defence Partner, and this was then in 2018 elevated to Strategic Trade Authorization tier 1 status.

Also Read: India-US Military trade to soon touch $ 25 bn; Boeing offers F-15EX Eagle for IAF

What does this mean?

India will have a license-free access to an entire range of military and dual-use technologies which have been regulated by the US Department of Commerce.

The military trade with the US companies takes place through Foreign Military Sales route. So far, the military trade between the two countries has touched almost USD 20 and in the next couple of years is expected to touch USD 25 billion.

The two countries have inked agreements including the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and the Industrial Security Agreement (ISA).

Also Read: US-India BECA agreement for geo-spatial co-operation

Deals expected to be discussed

As was reported in 2020 in Financial Express Online, while the Indian Air Force is looking at 114 fighter aircraft; the Navy has plans to buy around 57of fighter aircraft for its aircraft carrier.

As has been reported earlier by Financial Express Online, the US aerospace company Boeing has offered the F15EX for the Indian Air Force’s requirement of 114 fighter jets and it has also offered the F/A-18 Super Hornet for the Navy’s proposal to acquire 57 new jets.

“The Indian Navy is looking for deck-based fighters as the MiG-29s it has are not enough. And since the Navy will be getting the IAC1, more fighters are needed,” a source told Financial Express Online.

A contract for 10 Naval Shipborne Unmanned Aerial System, will be discussed for which the US-based Boeing is the front runner.

The sale of a USD 189 Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasure, a missile defence system for large aircraft (those which are used by VIPs).

A missile defence system — the Integrated Air Defence Weapon System (IADWS), already approved by the US State Department during the Trump administration. This deal is valued up to $ 1.867 billion.

Also Read: Growing ties: India-US military trade touches $18 billion

Communications Security Account and Equipment – this is a package that builds on COMCASA and is valued at USD 5 million. Though the deal is relatively small, it is a very critical component for advancing communication and enhancing interoperability.

Is Leasing an Option? Yes. The Indian armed forces are open to the idea of leasing military platforms to meet urgent operational requirements. The option of leasing too is expected to be discussed when the US Secretary of Defence meets with his counterpart defence minister Rajnath Singh and other senior officials.

Highly placed sources told Financial Express Online that, “The Indian Navy is open to leasing some critical platforms including Minesweepers, Helicopters, and Mid-air refuellers.”

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First published on: 11-03-2021 at 19:18 IST