Days before U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit to India, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met on Wednesday and cleared the procurement of 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters for the Navy at a cost of $2.4 billion.
While other defence deals are expected to be announced as well, they are in various stages of procurement, and not near conclusion yet.
“The MH-60R helicopter deal has been approved by the CCS,” a defence source said. It is expected to be announced during Mr. Trump’s visit , and will help to ease partially the Navy’s shortage of helicopters on front-line warships.
Also read | Trade deal with U.S. delayed, not stuck, says government
MH-60R was earlier selected through a competitive process for procurement of 16 helicopters, with an optional clause for eight more. But the deal fell through owing to pricing issues and other developments. Subsequently, the tender was cancelled. A fresh tender was floated for 24 MH-60R helicopters and processed through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route of the U.S. government.
“MH60 takes India from an aging fleet to having the world’s best multi mission naval helicopter. The unmatched sub-hunting capability only grows when combined with India’s P8s and possibly Sea Guardian drones. There is strategic value to India of course, but also to the US for its major defense partner to have these tools in the Indo-Pacific,” Vikram Singh, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense and adviser to the U.S. India Strategic Partnership Forum , told The Hindu .
Another deal close to conclusion is of six additional AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Army. They will cost around $930 million.
The Apaches from Boeing are being sourced through the direct commercial sale and the Foreign Military Sales route.
Also under discussion is the sale of Large Aircraft Infrared Counter Measure , a missile defence system for large aircraft (such as those used by VIPs). The value of this deal is about $ 189 million, The Hindu has learned.
A missile defence system — the Integrated Air Defence Weapon System ( IADWS ), which was approved last week by the U.S. State Department and is currently with the U.S. Congress for its consideration for up to 30 days — is also in the works. That potential sale, which could be valued up to $ 1.867 billion, is likely to be taken up during U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper’s visit to India, which will likely happen in March.
Also in process is the Communications Security Account and Equipment, a package that builds on COMCASA (an agreement between India and the U.S. permitting the secure transfer of data and communication systems), valued at $5 million, a relatively small deal but considered key to advancing communication and enhancing inter-operability.
It is understood that Mr. Trump will push for U.S. solutions to fighter jet competitions of the Indian Army and Navy during his trip to India.
( With inputs from Sriram Lakshman in Washington, DC )