Acquisition of the US-2: slow but steady progress
The case for acquisition of amphibious aircraft for the Indian Navy began way back in 2011 when the Navy issued a Request for Information (RFI). Japan’s ShinMaywa Industries Ltd, responded to the RFI and paved the way for commencing a new chapter of cooperation between India and Japan in the defence sector. The unique capabilities of the US-2 amphibian had clearly made it an interesting consideration for acquisition. As the IN progressed the acquisition case of amphibious aircraft on operational merit, possibility of procurement of US-2 by India was discussed during an Annual Summit Meeting between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Shinzo Abe, held in May 2013 at Tokyo. Directives were issued in the Joint Statement between the two Prime Ministers towards formation of a Joint Working Group (JWG) to explore modalities for co-operation on the US-2 procurement. The Joint Working Group completed its deliberations in 2013 and provided its inputs to the MoD towards possible merits of such acquisition. The Navy was independently progressing their case for requirement of amphibious aircraft within the established regulations of the Defence Procurement Procedure as per the Service’s long term operational requirement.
Over the last few years, an acquisition case for the US-2 has seen its own (typical) issues. Progress has been serpentine at the best. Amidst constant media speculations, both governments have been cautious in progressing their discussion in the case. In case the acquisition case does fructify, it would be the first military procurement co-operation between India and Japan. For Japan, this would be first sale of its military hardware to any developing country. However, since the procurement is unique in nature and the process of acquisition through the G-to-G route itself is being attempted for the first time between India and Japan, the pace has been understandably slow and deliberate. In addition, since the Indian Navy is set to acquire such capability after a long time, the acquisition case is being subjected to detailed deliberations at every stage. The multi-role capabilities of the aircraft are unique and presumably meet all the operational requirements of an amphibious aircraft as envisaged by the Indian Navy.
However, this aircraft comes with a big price tag. It is understood that cost related issues have been a matter of concern for the Government of India at every stage. It is however also understood that the Government of Japan has been assuring India of a ‘fair consideration’ on all issues related to the project including pricing, and the Japanese government has been regularly deputing top-level functionaries to India for discussions with their respective counterparts at various levels. Visit of Mr Tetsuro Kuroe, Administrative ViceMinister of Defence to India on 2- 3 November 2016 to meet and discuss issues related to the US- 2 project with Mr Manohar Parrikar and the Defence Secretary, which was prior to the recently concluded Summit Meeting indicates the Japanese intent. The acquisition case has found regular mention in ‘2+2’ dialogues between the two Defence and Foreign Secretaries and in Joint Statements released during annual Summit Meetings between the two Prime Ministers. It is understood