The US is offering to the Indian Navy the latest version of its T-45C Goshawk trainer aircraft, the naval version of the British BAe Hawk that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is purchasing.
Boeing, which manufactures the Goshawk in collaboration with BAe Systems, sent a high-level team to India last week to formally offer this aircraft, in addition to the F-18 Super Hornet that it wants to sell to the IAF to meet its multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) requirement of 126 jets.
Chris Chadwick, Boeing's vice president and general manager for global strike systems, said India was wide on the US horizon and that the best of American technology was on offer in view of the newly emerging strategic equations between the two countries.
Cooperation between the two countries could cover the latest equipment for the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force - as well as space.
India needs trainers for the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov that it is buying from Russia. Ironically, as the Russians could not extend carrier landing training to the Indian Navy, it had to go to the US - and that has provided Washington the opportunity to offer the Goshawk to the Indian Navy.
Thirty-two Indian Navy pilots have been assigned to receive carrier takeoff-and-landing training at the US Navy's Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida, where all US naval pilots are given initial and advanced training. The Indian pilots are being sent in batches of four, beginning earlier this year.
The US is looking for "interoperability" with the Indian forces for commonality in weapons and systems. It was with this in view that the Pentagon offered to train Indian naval pilots.
New Delhi had to accept the offer as Russia was unable to come up with carrier deck training. Admiral Gorshkov is due for delivery to the Indian Navy in 2008 along with a complement of 16 MiG 29K carrier-based fighters.
Boeing says that as the IAF is buying 66 Hawk advanced jet trainers (AJTs) from Britain, it would be cost-effective for the Indian Navy to go in for the Goshawk as there is a substantial commonality of parts between them. Rolls Royce's Adour engines power both aircraft, and although they are different models, many of their sub-assemblies are common.
Adour engines also power the IAF fleet of Jaguars that are made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The US Navy had selected the Hawk for training its pilots but as deck-based operations need sturdier airframes, the aircraft was suitably modified. The latest model T-45C has digital avionics and its training programme covers classroom instructions to simulators, initial and advanced carrier-based operations. The aircraft can also carry some weapons if required.
Boeing is responsible for the forward fuselage and stabilizers, assembly and systems integration, production test flights and maintenance. BAe produces the wings and the centre and rear fuselage while Rolls Royce makes the engines.
Some 170 Goshawks have been delivered to the US Navy, with 100 more in the pipeline. It is likely to be in operation beyond 2030.
As for the Indian Navy, its pilots have so far received advanced training on Harrier jump jets.
Unlike the AJTs for the IAF, two-thirds of which would be made in India under licence at HAL, the navy's requirement of trainer aircraft should not normally exceed a squadron, or about 20. Thus they are likely to be purchased outright.