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Pentagon offers Harpoon missiles to India

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NEW DELHI (BNS): The Pentagon wants to sell Harpoon missiles to India. The offer was made during Indian defence minister AK Antony's ongoing visit to Washington. If it goes through, it would be the first American missile in Indian arsenal.

A Pentagon official was quoted by agencies as saying that the sale of 20 AGM-84L Harpoon is on the cards. India is yet to respond officially to the offer slated to be worth $170 million. New Delhi is also seems to be interested in 4 ATM-84L Harpoon Block II exercise missile. Indian Navy has been negotiating for Harpoons for its proposed long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft, for which Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon has been finalized.

"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of an important partner and to strengthen the US-India strategic relationship, which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in South Asia," the official said.

The Indian Navy would use the missile for enhancing its operational capabilities, the official said. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale, said Pentagon. The prime contractor for the long-range aircraft will be the Boeing Company of St. Louis, Missouri.

The Harpoon is an all-weather, subsonic, over the horizon, anti-ship missile that can be launched from surface ships, submarines and aircraft. The Harpoon Block II is the latest version of the Harpoon missile and is able to strike land-based targets and ships in littoral environments.

The Harpoon Block II missile can discriminate target ships from islands and other nearby landmasses. This missile is fully compatible with current platforms operating Harpoon with no modifications required, the US officials pointed out.

The officials in New Delhi said the defence ties with the US were growing steadily. India is in the final stages of clearing the deal to buy P-8A reconnaissance aircraft. The deal can be announced any time, hinted officials.

The US companies are also bidding actively for major Indian contracts. This includes 126 multi-role fighters, light and heavy helicopters and gunships. Till recently, the military hardware exchange between New Delhi and Washington was negligible given the deep mutual suspicion stemming from the Cold War era. For Washington, New Delhi was always a Russian ally. In New Delhi's eyes, Washington was an unreliable partner. But the situation has changed in recent years.

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