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India, Japan officials' meet on amphibious aircraft on Dec 23

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NEW DELHI (PTI): India's ambitious mission to have an amphibious aircraft in its navy is likely to move a step forward when an Indo-Japan Joint Working Group (JWG) meets later this month to decide on the modalities of its induction.

The options to be discussed include outright purchase of the aircraft or joint manufacturing or a combination of both.

The JWG meeting, expected on December 23, will be the second since September 12 and is likely to be followed by another high-level meeting between the two countries shortly afterwards, official sources said.

Japan is pushing for off-the-counter sale of US-2 aircraft produced by ShinMaywa Industries Ltd, which has a range of about 4,500 km and is suitable for search-and-rescue operations. The US-2 is also capable of carrying sensitive communications equipment.

This aircraft usually has the capability of landing on choppy waters with waves of up to three metres, apart from having long-range civilian and military applications.

"While Japan wants to sell these aircraft, India wants to manufacture it jointly. The JWG is likely to meet on December 23 to decide on these issues," the sources told PTI.

The JWG, headed by Industry Secretary Saurabh Chandra on the Indian side, was formed during the Japan visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after he and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe signed an agreement on May 29.

The JWG had later set up a sub-group, with officials from the Ministries of External Affairs, Defence, Civil Aviation and Industry, to study the matter and prepare a report.

"The sub groups are meeting and discussing the matter. Nothing has been finalised yet. The issue needs more discussion," the sources said.

The sale of the aircraft, if it happens, would be the first of a finished product made by Japan's homegrown defence industry since restrictions were imposed on it on export of weapons systems and other such equipment.

The last amphibious aircraft operated by the Indian Navy were the light transport Sealand aircraft, which were inducted in the 1950s and phased out a decade later. Since then, the Indian Navy has never operated any amphibious aircraft.

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