(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
January 29, 2012
India rejected the two US contenders for its prestigious and much
billion dollars order for medium multi-role combat aircraft, many in
the US raised
shrill protests that India was not living up to US expectations and
repaying the US for the Indo-US nuclear deal and for helping India
international nuclear embargo and related impediments in acquiring
advanced technologies. They need not have worried. Notwithstanding
preferences, as in the MMRCA deal,
considerable part of
MoD has therefore floated several tenders for new types of helicopters. The largest tender is for 197 general purpose helicopters for which fierce competition is on with the usual manipulations, mutual accusations and backstabbing. Then there are smaller tenders for specific types of helicopters, chiefly one for attack helicopters which is the subject of this article, and another for heavy-lift choppers for which there are several contenders.
October last year, the Russian press, quickly followed by the
Indian press, reported that Russia’s contender, the Mi-28N “Night
attack helicopter, had been rejected by India after having failed to
stipulated requirements in many specified parameters during Indian
and other evaluations. With the Eurocopter Tiger not having been
all, and other
The helicopters themselves are said to cost around $600 million (Rs.3000 crore) but the deal as a whole, with weapons systems, spares, training and support, is expected to be worth around $1.4 billion (Rs 7000 crore). May not be “big ticket” or highly strategic, but the deal is not small change either.
Significant as this deal itself is, there are strong indications that this is a precursor to India acquiring other US-made helicopters in an estimated requirement of 700 helicopters over the next decade, as well as a whole range of helicopter-borne missiles and other weapons systems, as also other missiles and weapons from these manufacturers, thus prizing open a much larger chunk of the Indian military acquisition market and establishing a solid US presence in India.
which already has strong
the helicopters are being sold to
Having got in through the Apache deal, Raytheon is now offering the Stingers for the 179 multipurpose Light Combat Helicopters made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, of which 114 and 65 are proposed to be acquired by the Army and the Air Force respectively. The original idea was to equip these helicopters with the Indian-made Nag missiles but Raytheon now has its tail up.
do other US missile manufacturers. Boeing’s Apache is slated to come
with Lockheed Martin AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank and other missiles,
Longbow fire-control radars made by Lockheed Martin and Northrop
deal thus brings all three
Raytheon India had even earlier declared its intention to adapt its vehicle-launched Javelin anti-tank missile to Indian conditions, and is currently in discussions over this with Tatas, which is making a substantial foray into military technologies. Even though US majors Boeing and Lockheed Martin lost out on the MMRCA deal when their F/A-18 Super Hornets and F-16s were found wanting by India after field trials, Raytheon is now pushing hard for supplying missiles for whichever of the two shortlisted contenders India chooses, the French Rafale or the Eurofighter. Raytheon hopes to offer the AIM-120 AMRAAM “fire-and-forget” beyond visual range laser or infrared guided missiles for the MMRCA, pitting it in direct competition with its European rivals such as the German-led European consortium MBDA, Mistral and British Aerospace or BAe systems.
Boeing has added Harpoon missiles for the P8i maritime reconnaissance aircraft it sold to India. And all these missile and related tracking systems manufacturers are pushing the US government to rope India into a purchase or even a “joint manufacture” or “joint development” programme for missile defence systems.
Needless to say, the burgeoning US-India strategic relationship and the consequent big US push into the Indian military market from which it was absent for many decades, has been viewed with rising alarm by rival and older India suppliers in Europe especially Britain and France, not to mention traditional military partner Russia.
Russia has hardly hidden its bitter disappointment at what it perceives as it being increasingly sidelined by India in favour of the US and other Western military hardware manufacturers. There is some appreciation that India is seeking to diversify its supply sources and even that Russian performance as regards timely supplies, spares and after-sales service has suffered especially in the post-Soviet era. Yet the shifting relationship with traditional partner India has been a bitter pill to swallow, even if Indian sourcing from Russia continues to be a major proportion of Indian acquisitions and a substantial contribution to keeping an ailing Russian manufacturing sector ticking.
Even back in October last year, Russia had been bitterly disappointed at is Mi-28 attack helicopter having been dropped by India from the tender eventually won by Boeing’s Apache. This on top of Russia’s Mig-35 not having made the cut for the MMRCA deal, even though India went with Russia’s Sukhoi design bureau for the joint development of a fifth generation fighter aircraft and a multi-role transport aircraft.
So too the Europeans who are, of course, crowing at their success in the MMRCA order which will go either to France or to an European consortium. But, after the Apache order, it increasingly looks as if India is going to select Boeing’s CH-47 Chinook for its tender for 12 heavy-lift helicopters. And whereas India had earlier rejected US company Bell’s offer for its huge 197 helicopter acquisition tender leaving only Eurocopter in the fray, in a move apparently under political pressure, India re-floated the tender to allow US companies to compete again.
Right now, US military suppliers have the wind behind them. The question is whether India will play a fair game, with a level playing field.
Even in the Apache deal, a suspicion about this remains. How come that even though the order is worth over Rs 3000 crore, there has been no mention of offsets? Is an exception being made?