Amphibious Wings for the Navy and Coast Guard: US-2i back on track

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Published: July 1, 2019 8:13:23 PM

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to be in India for the annual summit in September/October this year

Japanese ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft , g20 summitThe government is keen to pursue this deal through government-to-government (G2G) route instead of direct commercial negotiations for more transparency. (Photo: ShinMaywa)

The Japanese ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft for the Indian Navy is back on track after leaders of India and Japan met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

Highly placed sources have confirmed to Financial Express Online that, “The $1.65 billion deal is going to be topping the agenda when the Japanese leader Shinzo Abe comes to India later this year for the annual bilateral summit.” Both the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard are looking to purchase 12-18 of these amphibious Search and Rescue aircraft (SAR) which will enhance their reach and capability.

The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to be in India for the annual summit in September/October this year and among various issues related to Indo-Pacific, maritime security, the purchase of the US-2i from Japan too will be discussed by the two sides.

Sources have confirmed that the deal is back on the table, especially after the bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Abe. India has been keen on acquiring the ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft Japan as part of the expansion of bilateral strategic partnership as both countries are wary of China’s assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ahead of the summit, both foreign and defence ministers of both countries will meet for the first ever 2+2 Ministerial Meeting, a format that was agreed to in 2018 and is expected to discuss the US-2i amphibious aircraft and other issues relating to Defence, Foreign Policy and Security.

“With India’s role expanding in the Indo-Pacific Region, these aircraft which were pushed back are now on track, says Sujeet Samaddar, former India head of ShinMaywa Industries Pvt Ltd.

The deal which was pushed back due to various reasons including high costs has gradually come back on track and has been on the agenda of talks at various levels between the two countries. Both sides have resolved all issues related to the purchase of ShinMaywa Industries’ US-2i amphibious aircraft.

According to Commodore Anil Jai Singh (retd), “The US 2i was supposed to be the showpiece if the Indo-Japan strategic relationship. It was to be the first Japanese military export since the end of WW2. However, for various reasons including cost, this did not happen. For India, an amphibious aircraft will be very useful in the island territories, for Search and Rescue as well as operational logistics and to provide support for ships at sea.”

Singh adds, “India should insist on manufacturing at least 6-8 in India and should be able to maintain and overhaul the aircraft in India.”

“At the trilateral meeting between Japan, the US and India (JAI) on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, the three talked about the Indo-Pacific initiative which is an important initiative which all three countries are separately pursuing and also discussing together could be given a further fillip as part of this initiative,” said foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale.

However, with the Indian Navy’s limited requirement for the search and rescue, Japan has offered to manufacture the aircraft in India with the transfer of technology (ToT). Tokyo has offered the possibility of exports to third countries and suggested setting up of MRO and manufacturing spare parts too in India.

As has been reported in the Financial Express Newspaper, since 2011, though there have been endless discussions, however, no final decision has been taken yet. The government of Japan has decided to lower the cost of these aircraft. From the time Tokyo eased its nearly half-century ban on defence equipment exports in April 2014, the two countries have been trying to close a military deal.

The Indian Navy had sought information about amphibian aircraft back in 2010 from Japanese ShinMaywa, Canada’s Bombardier for its CL-415 platform, Russia’s Beriev Be-200 and US/German Company Dornier for its Seastar CD2.

The government is keen to pursue this deal through government-to-government (G2G) route instead of direct commercial negotiations for more transparency. Some of the major G2G deals include procurement from Russia, the US and France.

The Japanese company announced a tie-up with Mahindra Defence Systems, in 2018 for building the aircraft in India and also assembling the first batch which will come in CKD condition if the deal is finalised.

What is US-2i?

Its primary role is air-sea search and rescue operations.

The US-2i is a unique aircraft, capable of short take-offs from land as well as water, with a range of over 4,500 km.

It is powered by four turboprop engines, it can land even on rough seas amid three-metre-high waves.

It has the capability to instantly transport 30 combat-ready soldiers to ‘hot zones’ in an emergency.

It will provide a huge boost to Indian Navy’s operational logistics in areas like the far-flung. It is strategically critical to Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The plane can also land spares and equipment in close proximity to warships on the high seas.

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