With the reliability of India's Soviet-era military hardware becoming a key issue for the armed forces top brass, Western armaments firms are eyeing the possibility of gaining a foothold in the market for refurbishing such equipment to extend their service life.
In a break from the past, even US defence majors like Raytheon have expressed their interest in bidding for programmes to upgrade Soviet and Russian equipment like the Indian Army's large fleet of T-72 tanks and BMP armoured vehicles.
"We have upgraded the US Army's Bradley armoured vehicles and Abrams tanks and we could use the same technology and know-how to refurbish Soviet gear like the T-72 tanks and BMPs," Walt Doran, president of Raytheon Asia, told PTI at the Paris Air Show.
Israeli firms have already established a strong presence in programmes to upgrade India's Soviet-origin equipment, including MiG-series combat jets, artillery guns and other hardware.
But this is the first time that US firms have shown an interest in refurbishing Russian equipment, which forms almost 75 per cent of the arsenal of the Indian armed forces.
Lee Cooper, vice president of Raytheon Technical Services, an arm that specialises in upgrading and improving military equipment, indicated that the expertise gained by the company in refurbishing the gear of the US Marines deployed for the war against terror could be put to use in a potential programme to upgrade the Indian Army's hardware.
"India has a lot of equipment deployed and there are different generations of equipment but our experience could come in handy," Cooper said.
Besides the land-based equipment, US firms have also shown interest in refurbishing the Indian Navy's Soviet and Russian-origin warships, especially in view of the maritime force's plans to focus on network-centric operations.
"It would be a challenge for us to work with the Russian ships and gear but the technological problems can be overcome. The key factor is integrating everything so that the older systems can be used in the future growth path of the Indian Navy," said Jack Costello of Raytheon's Network Centric Systems.
Raytheon has already had "detailed discussions" with the Indian Navy on its plans to establish network-centric systems, company officials said.