After the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal, the cementing of military ties has begun. Pentagon’s Defence Cooperation Security Agency (DSCA) chief Lt General Jeffrey B Kohler is expected here next month to make a classified technical presentation on the anti-missile Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system, F-16 and F-18 fighters.
Defence Ministry sources said Gen Kohler’s visit may see the Indian Navy possibly acquire USS Trenton, an Austin-class amphibious transport dock ship, along with minesweepers. The DCSA, which oversees US military foreign sales, may also offer the P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft to the Indian Navy on lease basis.
On July 25, the Pentagon informed the US Congress about the possible sale of USS Trenton to India while moving the amendment to Department of Defence Appropriation Bill.
Vice-Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Yashwant Prasad, is leading a Navy team to the US this month to examine the Trenton before acquisition plans are finalised. USS Trenton was commissioned on March 6, 1971 in the US Navy and has been offered to Indian Navy at a rock-bottom price.
Accompanying Gen Kohler will be representatives from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, makers of PAC-3 systems and F-16 and F-18 fighters. They are expected here between September 5 and 9.
During his visit, Gen Kohler will meet Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt, Secretary (Defence Production) Dhanendra Kumar, Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister M Natarajan, armed forces chiefs and senior officials from Ministry of External Affairs and National Security Council Secretariat.
Though classified presentations on military hardware by the US are often described here as sweeteners, Defence Ministry officials are eagerly waiting for technical briefings on the PAC-3 anti-missile defence system, F-16 and F-18 fighters.
The PAC-3 system is an improvement of its previous avatars as it uses kinetic energy rather than explosives to knock down an incoming cruise or ballistic missile. Given that India has a no-first use policy, it needs to beef up its anti-missile defence capability.
Although Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that New Delhi will build its own anti-missile system, the fact is that Indian expertise in this strategic area is quite limited and PAC-3 will at least bridge the gap before the indigenous system comes of an age.
The American forces use a mixture of PAC-2 (which uses explosives) and PAC-3 systems to tackle the broad spectrum of ballistic missiles.
Technical presentations of the F-16 and F-18 fighters—these will include briefings on the on-board radar and armaments—will help the Defence Ministry as India plans to acquire 123 multi-role fighters for the IAF.