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December 28, 2013

India, US ink $1billion deal for six Super Hercules aircraft

The ongoing diplomatic kerfuffle over the Devyani Khobragade episode is no hurdle as far defence deals with the US are concerned. India and the US have inked another mega contract, the $1.01 billion one for six additional C-130J "Super Hercules" aircraft, while some others are being finalized.

Defence ministry sources said the "letter of offer and acceptance" for the six new four-engine C-130Js, which will be delivered within three years, was signed on Friday under the US government's "foreign military sales" (FMS) programme.

IAF already has six C-130Js tactical airlift aircraft, ordered for $962 million in 2007, which are based at the Hindon airbase on the outskirts of Delhi. The six new C-130Js, also configured for "special operations" as the first six, will be based at Panagarh in West Bengal.

Panagarh will also house the headquarters of the new mountain strike corps, christened XVII Corps with a total of over 80,000 soldiers, being raised by the Army in a project worth around Rs 90,000 crore. This new corps will plug operational gaps along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control (LAC) as well as give "some serious ground offensive capabilities" against China for the first time.

The rugged C-130J, as also the bigger C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft acquired from the US, can even land at a small forward airbase on a semi-prepared runway. Crucial to counter China's massive build-up of border infrastructure, this capability was amply demonstrated when IAF landed a C-130J on the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in eastern Ladakh, at an altitude of 16,614-feet just seven-km from the LAC, in August this year.

The US has already bagged deals close to $10 billion over the last decade in the lucrative Indian defence market. The other deals on the anvil are the ones for 22 Apache attack helicopters, 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers, four P-8I maritime patrol aircraft and 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers, together worth another $4 billion or so.

"The CNC (contract negotiation committee) for the Chinooks has completed its work, while the one for the Apaches is on the verge of finalization. The M-777 howitzers' contract was stuck on the offsets proposal but is now being sorted out," said a MoD source.

That's not all. The US is also in the contention for the over Rs 15,000 crore project to equip the 355 infantry battalions of the Indian Army with third-generation, shoulder-fired anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).

After the US initially created roadblocks in the transfer of technology (ToT) for its "Javelin" ATGMs, India had turned to the Israeli "Spike" ATGMs for the project, which will involve an initial import of the tank-killing missiles followed by ToT to defence PSU Bharat Dynamics for indigenous manufacture.

But the A K Antony-led Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) last month put on hold a decision on clearing the Israeli case after the US offered a joint project to manufacture the next-generation of ATGMs. "The MoD will consider both the American and Israeli projects now and choose the one which suits India better," said the source. 
- Times of india

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