India-US GE Fighter Jet Engine Deal: Indian and US authorities are working to finalise a fighter jet manufacturing deal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the country. The deal involving US figher get manufacturer General Electric (GE) will be a government to government deal as GE is already supplying its F-404(IN) engines for India’s home grown light combat aircraft LCA Tejas manufactured by the state owned aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
According to the people familiar with the matter, both countries are also expected to firm up plans to purchase 30 MQ-9B armed drones from General Atomics, when Secretary Austin meets Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi. They are also likely to discuss an early conclusion of the ‘Air Information Sharing’ agreement, top-level official sources said.
US Defence Secretary Austin Lloyd is visiting India ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US.
The plan to develop complex jet engine technology in India by Ohio-based GE Aerospace, a subsidiary of GE, has been under discussion for over a year now. The deal is likely to be announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US in June this year.
PM Modi will embark on an official state visit to the US from June 21 to 24, where he will be hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House.
US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET)
In January this year following the talks held in Washington on the US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), the White House said it has received an application from GE to jointly make the engines here in India.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan has already completed first round of talks under iCET in Washington.
The idea is to manufacture GE’s F414 fighter jet engines in India under the Government of India’s self-reliance scheme that aims to reduce the country’s dependence on imports in critical sectors, including defence.
F414 engine will be used to power the indigenous fighter planes such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS MK-2.
GE F404 engine currently powers the MK-1 version. India also has plans to develop 114 multirole fighter jets in collaboration with foreign manufacturers.
The US has also said that it is willing to go for full transfer of jet engine technology with India. This was announced by Frank Kendall, Secretary, US Air Force, during his visit to India in March when he met National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
“Secretary Austin will visit New Delhi to meet with Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and other leaders as the United States and India continue to modernize the U.S.-India Major Defense Partnership,” Pentagon said in a statement issued on Thursday.
US officials said the visit provides an opportunity to accelerate new defence innovation and industrial cooperation initiatives and drive ongoing efforts to expand operational cooperation between the U.S. and Indian militaries.
India and US can also finalise a deal for combat unmanned drones during US Defence Secretary’s visit to India.
India is looking to acquire these drones for all the three services — Indian Army, Navy and Air Force — in an effort to strengthen its presence and boost surveillance in sensitive sectors of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China as well as in the maritime domain as the country increases presence of its military in the Indian Ocean region.
India-US pact for sharing of information
India, which also holds the designation of ‘Major Defence Partner’ of the US, is also in talks with Washington to conclude an ‘Air Information Sharing’ pact that will not only lead to greater interoperability between the Air Forces of both sides but will also help them enter India’s military aircraft market.
At the Aero India Show this year, US surprised many by sending F-35 and F-16 fighter planes and supersonic heavy bombers B-1B Lancers to the prestigious air show.
US officials said the participation of their latest fighters such as F-35 and long range bombers such as B-1B lancers was aimed at showing their country’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.
Under the iCET, both sides have decided to develop a new bilateral Defence Industrial Cooperation Roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation between both countries for the joint development and production, with an initial focus on exploring projects related to jet engines, munition-related technologies, and other systems.