First de­fence deal of Modi regime with the United States

SP's MAI - - MILITARY REPORT - [ By Ranjeet Ku­mar ]

Even be­fore Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ush­ered into the meet­ing room of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama in the Head­quar­ters of the United Na­tions, the of­fi­cials of the In­dian Min­istry of De­fence (MoD) put fi­nal sig­na­tures to the two most sig­nif­i­cant deals with the US Depart­ment of De­fense and Boe­ing, the man­u­fac­tur­ers of the two he­li­copters Chi­nook and the Apache. Sig­nif­i­cantly, the $3.1-bil­lion deal was inked at break­neck speed, rarely seen in In­dian de­fence es­tab­lish­ment. In fact the po­lit­i­cal clear­ance, through the Cab­i­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity (CCS), for the deal was given just on the eve of the de­par­ture of Prime Min­is­ter Modi for the United States on Septem­ber 22. This was the first big-ticket de­fence deal signed dur­ing the 16 months of the Modi regime. The deal was pend­ing since the Man­mo­han Singh days, who, in the penul­ti­mate year of his rule, had cleared the de­ci­sion to ac­quire the two class of he­li­copters from Boe­ing. Since then Boe­ing man­age­ment kept re­mind­ing the In­dian MoD of the sharp re­vi­sion in fi­nal agreed price if the deal was not op­er­a­tionalised. The In­dian Gov­ern­ment kept re­quest­ing Boe­ing to have pa­tience. Fi­nally the deal has gone through and de­fence sources say that the num­bers agreed to is not fi­nal and more will be or­dered. The deal inked on Septem­ber 28 en­vi­sions the sup­ply of 22 Apache at­tack he­li­copters and 15 Chi­nook heavy-lift he­li­copters.

Though some of the de­fence deals en­counter con­tro­versy re­lat­ing to pay­ments and the use­ful­ness of the equip­ment for the forces, the two he­li­copter deals will not at­tract any op­pro­brium as the deal was first okayed by the pre­vi­ous UPA regime led by Man­mo­han Singh in 2013. The NDA regime has only im­ple­mented his de­ci­sion. In re­cent years

the United States has emerged as the favourite arms sup­plier to the In­dian armed forces and is the only coun­try which has not found it­self em­broiled in any kick­backs re­lated con­tro­versy, as most of the deal has been trans­acted through for­eign mil­i­tary sales (FMS) route of the US State Depart­ment un­der which the buyer coun­try pays the same amount paid by the US forces to the US man­u­fac­tur­ers. How­ever, ad­di­tional ser­vice charges are levied, which are in the range of few per cent.

The ac­qui­si­tion of these he­li­copters will sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove the com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity of the In­dian army de­ployed on high moun­tains, on which trans­fer of weapons and plat­forms is very cum­ber­some. The Chi­nooks can ferry 55 com­bat troops or two com­bat ready jeeps. The Chi­nooks can also carry 11,000 kg of ex­ter­nal load from its belly, which is al­most equal to one how­itzer gun. The Apache at­tack he­li­copters will add to the fire­power of the IAF, which is al­ready equipped with Mi-35 Rus­sian at­tack he­li­copters and can prove de­struc­tive for the en­emy ground forces. The Rus­sian at­tack he­li­copters were ac­quired in the early 1990s and are now on the verge of re­tire­ment.

With the sign­ing of the deals, the IAF will have to gear up fast to get ready for their in­duc­tion, which will prob­a­bly take three years. The US com­pa­nies have al­ways ad­hered to the time­lines un­like some other de­fence firms. Ear­lier In­dia had or­dered from Boe­ing eight mar­itime re­con­nais­sance air­craft P-8I, to which four were added later. IAF also ac­quired 10 C-17 Globe­mas­ter III from Boe­ing and from Lock­heed Martin it pur­chased the C-130J Su­per Her­cules. In the mid­dle of last decade In­dia had ac­quired the weapon lo­cat­ing radars. In to­tal, the In­dian armed forces ac­quired weapon sys­tems and plat­forms from US com­pa­nies worth over $10 bil­lion.

One of the prin­ci­pal rea­sons of hes­i­tancy on the part of In­di­ans to ac­quire the weapon sys­tems from US was the con­di­tion­al­ity of ink­ing four foun­da­tional agree­ments — LSA (Lo­gis­tics Sup­ply Agree­ment), BECA (Ba­sic Ex­change and Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment), CISMOA (Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion Se­cu­rity Mem­o­ran­dum of Agree­ment) End User Agree­ments. The In­dian Gov­ern­ment has main­tained strict si­lence on whether these agree­ments have been ad­hered to while ink­ing the he­li­copter deals. How­ever, sources main­tain that these have not come in the way of sign­ing the deals as prob­a­bly they have been kept in abeyance.

Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cials, a ‘hy­brid’ agree­ment was signed for the Apache at­tack he­li­copters, in which one part, i.e. he­li­copters, of the deal has been signed be­tween the De­fence Min­istry of­fi­cials and Boe­ing, whereas the other part of the agree­ment was signed with the US Ad­min­is­tra­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the ac­com­pa­ny­ing weapons, radars and elec­tronic war­fare sys­tems. The deal in­cludes the ac­qui­si­tion of 812 AGM-114L-3 Hell­fire Long­bow mis­siles, 542 AGM-114R-3 Hell­fire-II mis­siles, 245 Stinger Block I-92 H mis­siles and 12 AN/APG fire-con­trol radars, etc. The 15 Chi­nooks deal was a di­rect com­mer­cial agree­ment with Boe­ing.

The clear­ance and ink­ing of the he­li­copter deals be­fore the meet­ing of Prime Min­is­ter Modi with Pres­i­dent Obama cre­ated a good am­bi­ence for the sum­mit talks. The US side came out in full sup­port for In­dia in the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil as a per­ma­nent mem­ber and also asked Pak­istan to rein in ter­ror­ist forces like the Lashkare-Taiba. In fact af­ter US inked Civil Nu­clear Co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment with In­dia in 2008, the US Ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted In­dia to or­der more and more de­fence sys­tems from the US com­pa­nies, to strengthen the strate­gic part­ner­ships. When the In­dian Air Force did not se­lect the Lock­heed Martin made F-16 as the next fleet of medium multi-role com­bat air­craft (MMRCA) for In­dia, the US Ad­min­is­tra­tion was dis­heart­ened. Now a few years later, the US com­pa­nies have in their kitty arms sup­ply agree­ment with In­dia worth more than $13 bil­lion, which will def­i­nitely en­thuse the Amer­i­can de­fence com­mu­nity.

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