India is being offered by the US to jointly develop and produce military helicopters as well as infantry combat vehicles under the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).
The two projects would be discussed threadbare in the following DTTI meeting probably in February that is after the Donald Trump administration takes over in the US on January 20, top government official was quoted as saying by Times of India today.
India is already keen in the US offer for participation in its $8 billion worth “future vertical-lift (FVL) aircraft” program that includes development of five different helicopters over the next 15 years.
The US has also suggested that the future infantry combat vehicle (FICV) project can be a trilateral venture with the inclusion of Israel.
India has not yet reached to any decision about this proposal since it is occupied with finalizing its own Rs 60,000-crore (US$8.8 billion) FICV project, with two private sector players and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in the reckoning for prototype development.
Since US has now officially designated India as a “major defence partner” at par with its closest allies to facilitate the transfer of advanced technology, the two new projects seem to be ambitious.
There are chances that India is unlikely to move ahead for the five types of helicopters, which range from light-weight to heavy-lift ones.
India and Russia, for instance, have already finalized the production of 200 Kamov-226T light-utility helicopters worth $1 billion, while Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. is also independently tasked to develop 187 similar choppers.
India has also signed $3.1 billion deal with the US for 22 Apache attack and 15 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters that are slated for delivery in 2019-2020.
Nevertheless, the Indian armed forces are seeking about 1,200 helicopters of different types over the next 15-20 years to replace their ageing fleets at an estimated cost of over Rs 1.5 lakh crore.
“We can choose the kind of helicopters that suit our interests. Moreover, one to two products are also being identified under each of the seven joint working groups under the DTTI,” an official said.
Further among the first four “pathfinder projects”, India has finalized two. One is mobile generators and another is protective ensemble worth $2 million.