India is likely to place a whopping $2.6 billion order for military helicopters from Lockheed Martin during US President Donald Trump's upcoming India visit. Trump is making his maiden visit to India on February 24-25. Earlier, Prime minister Narendra Modi had invited the US president to be the special guest at the Republic Day parade but Trump couldn't make it owing to scheduling clashes.
We expect a positive announcement soon on the helicopters ... There are limited resources, but there is an allocation
Citing defence and industry sources, Reuters reported on Tuesday that the Indian government will, in all likelihood, approve the purchase of 24 MH-60R Seahawk helicopters for the Indian navy. The deal with Lockheed Martin is expected to be decided in the next two weeks, the agency reported.
"We expect a positive announcement soon on the helicopters ... There are limited resources, but there is an allocation," an official speaking on condition of anonymity said, while an industry source added: "It's a government-to-government deal, it is close."
The report also added that the Indian and US governments will accelerate the deal by processing it through the foreign military sales route. In this process, the two governments will arrive at the details of the deal rather than through lengthy negotiations between the Indian government and Lockheed Martin.
Hellfire missiles on MH-60R helicopters
The multirole MH-60R helicopters have equipment that can detect submarines and torpedoes, a capacity that will add greater capability to the Indian Navy. The Lockheed Martin choppers will also be equipped with Hellfire missiles. "India intends to use these defense articles and services to modernize its armed forces, and to expand its existing air defense architecture to counter threats posed by air attack," the US State Department said.
Growing defence ties
Earlier, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported that the US would approve the sale of an Integrated Air Defense Weapon System to India at a cost of $1.867 billion. India has been a major buyer of US weaponry since 2007, when New Delhi started a shift in strategic focus from Russia to the US. Reuters reports that Indian defence purchases from the US since then has reached $17 billion.
India also plans to buy 30 units of the armed version of Guardian drones from General Atomics. India is the first country outside the NATO alliance to get permission to buy these drones, which were earlier authorized only for sale for unarmed purposes. However, the $2.5 billion deal may not work out immediately owing to the lack of funds, the agency added.