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US defence secretary’s maiden India trip to focus on key deals

india Updated: Apr 29, 2015 01:41 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times
US Defence Secretary

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter is expected to arrive in India late on June 2 on a visit aimed at inking an amendment to the 2005 India-US Defence Framework Agreement to allow co-development and co-production of military hardware and platforms.

The amendment will breathe new life into the bilateral Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) with a proposal to make Scorpion light attack aircraft in India as well as to use it as an intermediate jet trainer (IJT) for the Indian Air Force (IAF). A known defence expert, it was Carter as Deputy Secretary (Defence) under Chuck Hagel who had initiated the DTTI government-to-government (G2G) programme with India.

The proposed amendment to the framework agreement will also include advanced joint exercises. It is also learnt that the Pentagon has set up a Rapid Action Task Force to deal with military technology co-development and co-production .

South Block officials told Hindustan Times that Carter will be making his maiden trip to India after taking over as defence secretary on February 17, 2015. He will have a full working day on June 3. During US President Barack Obama’s Republic Day visit, both countries had identified the Raven hand-launched UAV and C-130J’s roll-on and roll-off reconnaissance and surveillance modules for G2G transfer under the DTTI apart from Washington offering “hot engine jet technology” and electromagnetic catapult for Indian-built aircraft carriers.

Carter will be accompanied by US DTTI points person Under Secretary (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) Frank Kendall. He will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Manohar Parrikar, besides key defence and industry representatives.

With Indian defence PSUs failing to deliver on the Sitara IJT despite red-flagging by Air Force Chief Arup Raha, the IAF has shown keen interest in Scorpion jet plane, jointly developed by Textron and AirLand Enterprises. The Sitara IJT is under development since 1997. Powered by two Honeywell engines with missile hardpoints, the two seater sub-sonic Scorpion not only fits the IJT role but can also be used for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance in war. The plane, which has been inducted into US Air Force, has a composite body with operating cost as low as $3,000 per hour compared to over $18,000 per hour for fourth generation US fighters. “If India agrees to bring Scorpion under DTTI, then the company has plans to set up a manufacturing facility in the country,” said a Delhi-based American diplomat.