The Globemaster deal
The decks have now been cleared for the biggest-ever Indo-US defence deal: the $4.1 billion contract for 10 C-17 Globemaster-III giant strategic airlift aircraft. Defence ministry sources said the Globemaster deal, a direct government-to-government contract under the American FMS (foreign military sales) programme, should get the ‘‘final nod’’ from the Cabinet Committee on Security ‘‘within this month’’. ‘‘All issues connected to costing and offsets (under which Globemaster-manufacturer Boeing will plough back 30% of the contract value into India) have been resolved,’’ said a source. While India needs to augment its strategic airlift capability to swiftly move combat systems and troops over large national and international distances, the decision is seen to be imbued with strategic significance. The Americans were said to be unhappy that they were denied the MMRCA deal and indicated their unhappiness by making a relatively junior officer call New Delhi and inform it about Osama Bin Laden’s death, whereas high government functionaries had informed other countries. As for India’s current airlift capabilities, it is dependent on just over a dozen Russian-origin IL-76 ‘Gajraj’ aircraft. In contrast, Globemaster-III is capable of carrying a payload of almost 170,000 pounds and landing even at small forward airbases with semi-prepared runways. The four-engine rugged C-17s can transport tanks and troops over 2,400 nautical miles. With mid-air refueling, C-17s can go even longer distances. Along with the C-130J ‘Super Hercules’ aircraft already being inducted, the C-17s will play a significant role in countering China’s massive build-up of military infrastructure all along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control,which includes five fully-operational airbases in Tibet. That’s not all on the US arms deals front. India is already conducting commercial negotiations for the around $1 billion ‘‘follow-on contract’’ for four more P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, eight of which were earlier ordered for $2.1 billion in 2009. Negotiations for six more C-130J Super Hercules heavy-lift aircraft are also expected to begin soon. IAF has already inducted two of the earlier six C-130Js ordered for $1.2 billion in 2008. Two more will come around July, with the last two in September-October,’’ said the MoD source. So, if all this is taken into account, US has notched up sales worth around $9 billion to India in the arena of military transport and reconnaissance aircraft alone. If one adds other military aviation deals, like the $822 million for 99 GE F-414 engines for Mark-II version of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft and the $170 million for Harpoon Block-II anti-ship missiles, as well as the proposed ones for attack and heavy-lift helicopters, the overall figure would jump to well over $11 billion. Consequently, all the brouhaha over India choosing a fighter over ‘‘a strategic partnership’’ in the MMRCA project has not gone down well with the military establishment. ‘‘We went purely by IAF’s technical and flight evaluation in the MMRCA project,’’ said the MoD source.