US hopeful of bagging IAF, Navy orders for fighter jets

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The US hopes to win the deals for supplying fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy by selling its F21 and F/A18 Super Hornets respectively, a top US official said here on Wednesday.

Joel Starr, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the US Department of State, said the IAF and Navy fighter competitions are once in a generation opportunity to more closely ally US and India.

“We have the best product technologically advanced F21 for India Air Force and F/A 18 which I understand the Indian Navy is very much interested in. That competition will be concluding soon and I hope resolution will be satisfactory for both the parties,” he told reporters on the sidelines of US-India Defence Ties Conference here.

He earlier told the Conference that choosing US fighter aircraft presents an opportunity to not only meet India”s military requirements but deepen their partnership.

“For fighter competitions we offer some best technology widely deployed by our Navy and Air Force. F/A 18 Super Hornet and F21 Indian both will bolster India defence capabilities, widen its defence industrial base and position it as a supplier in global defence eco-system shared by network of our allies and partners,” he said.

In April, the IAF had issued Request for Information to acquire 114 jets at a cost of around $18 billion, billed as one of the world”s biggest military procurement in recent years.

F/A 18 Super Hornet is in contention for an Indian Navy requirement of 57 new fighter jets.

Starr believes the two deals could give huge boost to the bilateral defence trade between the US and India, which is currently estimated at $16 billion. He said as India restructure its forces, the US will continue to offer highest quality, most dependable and most technologically advanced products in the market to India.

He claimed that US military sales will benefit both Indian national security and Indian and American workers. The US official said his country appreciate India”s effort to develop own manufacturing base, saying such a base was in their mutual best interest as it will not only increase their capabilities but contribute to the global supply chain.

“The security relationship between India and the US continues to grow. From increasing military cooperation, exercises to defence trade, the US will continue to work with India to ensure a free and safe Indo-Pacific region,” he added.

He hoped that 2+2 dialogue will further strengthen the defence ties between the two countries. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar along with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh are scheduled to meet their American counterparts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper in the US on Wednesday.

Joel Reifman, Consul General in Hyderabad, described Hyderabad as microcosm of developing industry relation and US cooperation. He noted that the marquee US names in Information Technology, pharma and defence have their presence in Hyderabad.

Telangana’s Industries and IT Minister K. T. Rama Rao said Hyderabad offer the best eco-system for defence and aerospace sector and sought greater engagement of US companies with the state.

The minister pointed out that leading US companies like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, GE and Pratt and Whitney have set up their operations in Hyderabad.

The two-day conference, being hosted by the US Consulate General in partnership with the Business Council for International Understanding and the Confederation of Indian Industry, is being attended by government officials, corporate leaders, researchers and entrepreneurs.