Even as the Indian MoD is expected to give the nod for purchasing Boeing Apache and Chinook helicopters in the near future, moves are afoot to order more defence equipment from the US.
Twenty two Apaches and 15 Chinooks, built by Boeing, are required by the Indian Air Force (IAF) at the earliest. Even Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had stated earlier that he wanted the finance ministry to clear the purchase quickly.
Bell-Boeing has been reportedly asked by the Indian government to provide a price quote for four Osprey vertical lift aircraft. India sees potential application for the tilt-rotor aircraft for surveillance and rapid deployment of forces. The versatile aircraft can also be used for earch and rescue missions as it combines the cargo carrying capacity of the medium-size turboprop with the vertical lift of a helicopter.
Another possible purchase is Textron’s new Scorpion jet. The newly developed aircraft can perform a variety of missions including training and light attack.
Sikorsky had earlier been selection in an Indian Navy helicopter tender and has been invited to negotiate terms with the Indian MoD. With the changed attitude in India to protracted negotiations owing to pressure from the forces, India may purchase the choppers sooner than later.
The combined bill for these purchases would be in the region of US$5 billion to 6 billion.
In addition, the IAF is also looking to add to its fleet of C-130 and C-17 given the frequent use of these machines in natural disaster relief operations.
It is in this backdrop that a scheduled visit US defence secretary Ashton Carter assumes significance. Carter, who is expected in in New Delhi during June to sign the 10-year India-US Defence Framework Agreement is expected to announce some joint projects under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).