India set to approve manufacturing facility for US fighter jets

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Anupama Airy

India is likely to approve the setting up of a manufacturing facility for the F-16 aircrafts or the F/A18 super hornet jet fighters early next week, top government sources have told DefenceAviationPost.

“Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will once again strike a tough bargain for India during the ongoing three day visit of the US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, a bargain that will see the country benefitng on both the economic and strategic front besides gaining immensely on the technical front…. setting up of a manufacturing line in India for either F-16 aircrafts or F/A18 super hornet jet fighters may be announced,” said a top Defence Ministry official.

Both the US fighter jet makers– Lockheed Martin and Boeing have expressed keen interest to set up manufacturing facilities for these two niche aircrafts in India in line with the Modi government’s “Make in India” initiative.

While the exact announcement on whether India will go for a F-16 or a F-18 facility will be known shortly, the Indian defence establishment has been keen to go for the twin-engine F/A 18 super hornets (Boeing) over the F-16 single engine aircrafts by Lockheed Martin after the indigenously developed Tejas light combat aircrafts.

US has been keen to strengthen defence ties with India as New Delhi prepares to dole out multi-billion defence contracts and Carter’s three day visit—which is second in less than a year – clearly signals the intent.

“The visit could see the signing of an agreement for sharing of technology for jet fighter engines as also for aircraft carrier building technology under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) framework between India and the US. The US has offered to manufacture F-16 and F/A 18 in India and we may see an announcement on that front too,” sources said.

F-18 Boeing

The Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornets

While the move will eventually mean sharing of technology, the advantages of setting up of a manufacturing line for these fighter aircrafts on the economic and strategic side would include jobs creation in India besides creating an ecosystem for components, sub-systems and spare supplies.

“The manufacturing line for jet fighters in India would by and large raise the skill levels of people involved in this initiative. What will add to India’s strategic advantage would be that once you have manufacturing line in India, the same can be used for exporting to third countries,” said a senior bureaucrat.


                                                                F-16 Super Vipers (Lokheed Martin)

Besides, there could also be an announcement on a service-to-service arrangement (for instance between Army-to-Army or the agreement between the two ground forces or Navy-to-Navy) that will enable exchange of ideas on acquisitions, technology pooling and developments.

In Goa, Parrikar will take Carter to the Naval base in Karwaar and will host him on India’s biggest aircraft carrier—INS Vikramaditya besides embarking on the US Blue Ridge—the command ship of the US 7th fleet, that is parked in the high seas.

INS Vikramaditya

                                                                                        INS Vikramaditya

Officials, however, ruled out the possibility of India signing the three foundation defence agreements with the US, something that the latter has been wanting to ink for a long time now. These three agreements are the Communications and Information Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), the Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial intelligence and are seen as great enablers in aiding transfer of technology and promoting trade and joint military collaborations between the two sides.

“While India is not likely to ink these pacts during this visit, it will come to some understanding on the signing of the LSA now called as the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement. India may agree to sign this agreement with suitable modifications and build in provisions that will take care of India’s sensitivities,” the official said, adding that the other two agreements—CISMOA and BECA will not be signed.

Sources said that while there could be discussions on joint patrolling in Indian Ocean and South China sea but India is unlikely to agree on this and Parrikar is expected to take a considered strategic view keeping in mind the sensitivities on account of the unsettled borders with China. Discussions may also take place on the Pathankot issue as also on a Joint Secretary level framework agreement on Afghanistan besides sub-marines security. A joint statement will be also issued on the possible military co-operation agreed upon between the two sides in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Adds News Agency PTI From Panaji (Goa):

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said India and the US will discuss the further movement in Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) during the three-day visit of US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.

Carter will be on a two-day tour of Karwar in neighbouring Karnataka and Goa today and tomorrow before proceeding for New Delhi.

“The DTTI discussions will be held in New Delhi on April 12,” Parrikar told reporters last evening here.

Carter will visit Mangueshi Temple and old Goa churches today, while he will be on board INS Vikramaditya, accompanied by Parrikar off Goa coast, tomorrow.

Parrikar said the DTTI talks will be held with the possibility to ensure that Centre’s flagship initiative ‘Make In India’ is made an integral part of it.

“India wants to establish the best of defence cooperation with the US as both the countries are biggest members in this sector globally,” the minister said.

Parrikar said India will make efforts to strengthen defence ties with the US.

“There are many important issues to be discussed. India wants to establish best defence cooperation with the US. Many issues of importance will be finalised in the bilateral talks in Delhi,” Parrikar said.


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