US-based Lockheed Martin hopes to emerge as major military aircraft supplier to India.
Michael N. Kelley, Lockheed's International Market Development manager, said his company was looking forward to making soon an announcement of their first sale in India.
The US aeronautical giant, which manufactures the long haul Hercules transport aircraft, Orion naval spy planes and the nuclear capable F-16 fighters, is aggressively looking at the Indian market, pegging it as one of the world's largest.
Last week Lockheed Martin signed a technical agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), India's premier aircraft manufacturing state-run enterprise based in southern Bangalore, to share data on its P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft.
India has also sought preliminary information in efforts to buy Lockheed's F-16 fighter jets, for which the U.S. government is yet to grant approval. The purchase, if sealed, will likely involve a manufacturing role for HAL.
"I have every hope and expectation that by the time Aero India 2007 is held, that we will have a major sale here in India, both the C-130-J and the MRCA (Multi Role Combat Aircraft) programme could be on track for completion by then. The P3C Orion is a government to government activity and it is progressing towards a possible inter-governmental agreement later this year or early next," Kelley said in New Delhi making a presentation of the C- 130-J Super Hercules transport aircraft.
The US Air Force has brought its C-130J Hercules on a tour of key Indian Air Force (IAF) bases to give a first-hand look at the tactical transport carrier used for special missions.
The aircraft, which has been sold to over 60 nations, was also showcased as part of the US Department of Defense exhibition at the recently concluded Aero India at Air Force Station Yelehanka near Bangalore.
Dennys Plessas, regional vice-president for Lockheed, said last week the company had necessary licenses from the US government for sale of the two non-combat aircraft. He saw probable purchases of six to eight C-130Js by India's air force and eight to 12 P-3Cs by the navy.
Kelley dismissed doubts that Lockheed's supplies to India's arch rival Pakistan would stand in the way.
"Well, it's not really anything different here in South Asia then it is for many other parts of the world or many other manufacturers. The French Dassault company, for instance, supplies Mirage aircrafts both to India and to Pakistan and it does not seem to be an issue between the Indian government and the French government that the French practise the same practice of selling to both sides. So in all honesty, I don't think it should be that big of an issue. I don't hear anyone here in India clamouring that we should stop buying from Russia because Sukhoi- 30s are being sold to China," he said.
India and the US have warmed up to defence cooperation since September 11, 2001 terror attacks and their forces hold periodic exercises. Sanctions on US military sales to India imposed after its May 1998 nuclear tests have been waived.
Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon's No. 1 contractor, is the world's largest defence company, with a turnover of 35 billion dollar, with aeronautics contributing close to 12 billion dollar. Its customers include the military services of the United States and allied countries throughout the world.