Obama coming, Indo-US copter deals imminent?
ollowing a fresh request for information (RFI) in July last year, the MoD has cleared the Indian Army’s proposal to tender for 814 truck-mounted self-propelled 155mm gun systems at a cost of approximately 15,000 crore. The procurement, officially titled Mounted Gun System (MGS) and part of the Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan (FARP), is to be from an Indian vendor with technology that may be either indigenous or licensed from a foreign third party. Competitors for the programme include the Tata SED 155mm mounted gun system, which involves a gun mounted on a eight-wheeled Tata truck and the L&T-led consortium that involves a Nexter CEASAR gun mounted on an Ashok Leyland 6x6 Super Stallion truck chassis. Vendors responded last year to a 29-question RFI that was sent out to several firms, including Tata, L&T, Bharat Forge and Mahindra Defence among others. The cleared deal paves the way for an important part of the FARP, given that none of the
US President Barack Obama’s consent to be chief guest at India’s Republic Day 2015 celebrations has sparked word that some pending Indo-US defence deals could be cleared before his arrival in New Delhi. An indication that key decisions could be afoot in the coming days was visible in the White House statement on President Obama’s forthcoming visit to India, where it said, “The President will meet with the Prime Minister and Indian officials to strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership.” Finalised deals currently pending include contracts for 22 Boeing AH-64D Apache Block III attack helicopters and 15 Boeing CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. Other deals on the table include contracts for additional Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft as a follow-on to the 10 already under delivery, and the proposed acquisition of 145 BAE Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers, an effort that reportedly is active once again. While deals are usually never signed during high-level visits, both sides will be looking to conclude them before President Obama’s visit as a sweetener once he lands in Delhi to take discussions on strategic partnership forward. The IAF has indicated that it has waited long on these two acquisitions and requires an early contract signature in order to receive the aircraft on time.