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Pentagon awaits India's interest in fighter aircraft

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C-130J Hercules Transport aircraft (top) and C-17 Globemaster. A file photo.

WASHINGTON (PTI): The Pentagon is still interested in selling its fighter aircraft to India, which recently decided against it, and is seriously exploring the potential of co-development of military weapons systems with India.

In a nine-page report to the Congress on Tuesday, the Pentagon acknowledged that India's recent decision not to opt for America's F-16 and F-18 for its 126-fighter aircraft was a setback.

"Despite this setback, we believe US aircraft, such as the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), to be the best in the world.

Should India indicate interest in the JSF, the United States would be prepared to provide information on the JSF and its requirements (infrastructure, security, etc.) to support India's future planning," the Pentagon informed the US congress.

Continually looking for ways to expand defence cooperation with India, the Pentagon said it is seeking opportunities for increased science and technology cooperation that may lead to co-development opportunities with India as a partner.

"The United States has taken many steps in recent years to facilitate science and technology and research and development cooperation with India.

In so doing, we have signalled our unambiguous intent to pursue cooperative opportunities on increasingly sophisticated systems," Pentagon said.

"As our relationship continues to mature, we expect co-development of armaments to become a reality," it said.

Over the next five years, the United States will continue to establish itself as a reliable defence supplier to India and look for opportunities to enable further training and exchanges between the militaries as India continues its military modernisation.

"The Department of Defence, along with the Departments of State and Commerce, will advocate for US solutions to Indian defence needs.

We recognise that India is also seeking to build its own indigenous defence industry, and is looking for the best technologies to use in its defence sector," it said.

"The United States wants to develop deeper defence industrial cooperation with India, including a range of cooperative research and development activities.

The United States is committed to providing India with top-of-the-line technology," the report said.

Even as the recent Indian decision on fighter jets came as a big disappointment for the US, Pentagon informed the Congress about the USD 6 billion worth of sale to India in less than a decade.

Since 2002, India has signed more than 20 Foreign Military Sales (FMS) cases for defence articles and services such as C-17 and C-130J aircraft, TPQ-37 radars, Self-Protection Suites (SPS) for VVIP aircraft, specialised tactical equipment, Harpoon missiles, Sensor-Fused Weapons, and carrier flight and test pilot school training.

"In less than a decade, and starting at zero, we have seen the FMS programme grow to a combined total case value of approximately USD 6 billion," it said.

The C-130Js delivered beginning in February 2011 are the first US military aircraft to have been delivered to India in half a century and have already been successfully employed to provide critical humanitarian assistance following an earthquake in Sikkim in September 2011, the report said.

"As part of that sale, the US Air Force (USAF) trained more than 100 Indian Air Force personnel - including pilots, loadmasters, and maintenance staff.

Once the C-17 contract is fulfilled, India will operate the second largest fleet of C-17s in the world," it said.

"The former USS TRENTON, which was transferred to the Indian Navy in 2007 and christened the INS JALASHWA, has helped the Indian Navy expand its amphibious and expeditionary warfare capabilities," the report said.


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