High-level visits, especially the ones headed by the heads of state, present an excellent opportunity for respective countries to tackle and resolve the major sticking points that beset their relations. President Trump’s maiden visit to India offers a unique opportunity to address problems in a way that has not been tried and also presents a chance to reaffirm strategic ties between the two countries, which have been side-lined due to the differences over trade.
According to Reuters, the Indian government has given a heads up to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CSS) and is trying to sign at least two major defense deals during the US president’s visit to India. The CSS has given the final approval to the 24 MH-60R multirole helicopters deal and is all set to provide final approval to the Integrated Air Defense Weapon System (IADWS). These deals will be through government-to-government foreign military sale (FMS) route to cut short the lengthy negotiations process.
The 24 MH-60R multirole helicopters deal was already approved by the US State Department last year and is estimated to cost around $2.6 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency also delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale.
According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s statement last year, the Government of India has requested to buy 24 (twenty-four) MH-60R Multi-Mission helicopters, equipped with the APS-153(V) Multi-Mode radars, T700-GE-401C engines Airborne Low-Frequency System (ALFS), AN/AAS-44C(V) Multi-Spectral Targeting System, Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM), AN/SSQ-36/53/62 son buoys, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, AGM-114 M36-E9 Captive Air Training Missiles (CATM), AGM-114Q Hellfire Training missiles, Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) rockets, MK 54 torpedoes, M-240D Crew Served guns, GAU-21 Crew Served guns, Naval Strike Missile Emulators, Naval Strike Missile Captive Inert Training missiles and the MH-60B/R Excess Defense Article (EDA) USN legacy aircraft. The deal also included AN/AVS-9 Night Vision Devices, AN/ARC-210 RT-1990A(C) radios with COMSEC, AN/ARC-220 High-Frequency radios, AN/APX-123 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) transponders.
The proposed sale will replace Indian Navy’s ageing British made Sea King Mark 42Bs anti-submarine warfare helicopters (ASW) and boost the Indian Navy’s anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare operations along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay. These helicopters will work with P-8I Poseidon long-range marine time patrol and surveillance aircraft. The deal for the Integrated Air Defense Weapon System (IADWS) is also all set from the US side. According to the DSCA statement, the US Department of States already approved the possible sale for an estimated cost of $1.867 billion, and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying the Congress of this potential sale on February 7, 2020.
The IASWS package includes AN/MPQ-64Fl Sentinel radar systems, AMRAAM AIM-120C-7/C-8 missiles, AMRAAM Guidance Sections, AMRAAM Control Sections, and Stinger FIM-92L missiles, Fire Distribution Centres (FDC), Handheld Remote Terminals, Electrical Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Sensor Systems, AMRAAM Non-Developmental Item-Airborne Instrumentation Units (NDI-AIU), Multi-spectral Targeting System-Model A (MTS-A), Canister Launchers (CN), High Mobility Launchers (HML), Dual Mount Stinger (DMS) Air Defense Systems, Vehicle Mounted Stinger Rapid Ranger Air Defense Systems.
IASWS deal also includes communications equipment, tool kits and test equipment, range, and test programs. An assortment of support equipment like prime movers, generators, technical documentation, computer-based training equipment, training equipment, training towers, ammunition storage, also come with the deal.
The proposed purchase of IADWS is totally in line with India’s plan of modernizing and expanding its existing air defense architecture to counter threats posed by air attacks. IADWS will join several existing systems of the Indian armed forces, covering different parts of the aerial threat environments. The Defense Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) Advanced Air Defence (AAD) and Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) interceptor missiles form the outer most layer of missile defense in the 2000 km class and altitude from 15-25 km to 80-100 km. The Russian-procured S-400 surface-to-air missile system will form the second layer, with interception ranges of 40 km to 400 km and height from 20 km to 60 km. Barak-8 Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) forms the third layer with an operational range of 35 km to 70 km and an altitude of 20 km to 30 km. The Indigenous Akash Mk1 Area Defence Missile System (AADSM) forms the fourth layer with an interception range of up to 30 km and an altitude of up to 18 km. The IADWS will join the Israeli surface-to-air Python and Debry (SPYDER) missile system and will form the innermost layer, covering the low altitude short to the medium-range threat environment.
According to industrial and defense sources, US defense major Boeing indicated that it was considering to offer its F-15EX Eagle fighter jets to Indian Air Force in an $ 18 billion 114 fighter jet contract.The company has already sought a license from the US authorities for its possible export to India.
These defense deals provide an opportunity to both the countries that to uplift bilateral cooperation despite trade tussles.
*** The author is currently pursuing Ph.D. at the Center for Canadian, US, and Latin American Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He completed his M.Phil and M.A. in Politics (with Specialisation in International Relations) form Jawaharlal Nehru University. He is B.E. in Information Technology form Institute of Technology and Management, Gurgaon and worked with Infosys and Tata Consulting Services in Structures Products, Insurance and Pharmaceutical domain ***