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INDIA REJECTS US OFFER TO REPLACE SEA KING

INDIA REJECTS US OFFER TO REPLACE SEA KING
By Bulbul Singh

05 Apr 11. The Indian defence ministry has rejected an offer by the United States to replace Indian Navy Sea King Helicopters under FMS. The offer was made by U.S. authorities to replace the helicopters with Lockheed Martin MH-60 R ASW helicopters. The move is seen as an indication of a hardening of the Indian defence ministry’s approach in giving further defence contracts to United States via FMS.

The Indian defence ministry rejected the U.S. offer after the U.S. authorities refused to meet a commitment of 30 per cent defence offsets.

The Indian defence ministry insisted that the offset should be met by the U.S. authorities under the FMS route and refused to deal with Lockheed Martin to deal with the offset obligations. The Indian defence ministry says, since the offer was made on government to government basis through the FMS route, the U.S. authorities should confirm their commitment to meet the offset obligations.

Most of the 43 anti-submarine warfare Sea Kings purchased from the U.K. company erstwhile Westland Helicopters about 20 years ago had to be grounded. Spare parts were unavailable following U.S. sanctions in 1999, which were lifted in September 2001.

Currently the Sea King helicopters are used for Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Surface vessel Strike role, Electronic Warfare Surveillance role, Search and Rescue roles.

India pays more than 4.5 per cent as fee for all arms and equipment purchased from the United States on government to government basis. FMS is administered by the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) and this route is generally followed in respect of the items that have already been inducted in the U.S. forces and the procurement is done on price at which the weapons and equipment are supplied to the U.S. Air Force.

Last month the Indian defence ministry asked the US authorities to tell them the price at which the C-17 cargo aircraft are being supplied to the U.S. Air Force. The defence ministry feels the price being quoted by the U.S. authorities under FMS is higher than the price at which the C-17 aircraft are being supplied to the U.S. Air Force.

In a last minute spanner, the Indian defence ministry asked the US authorities to intimate the rate at which the C-17 cargo aircraft is being supplied to the U.S. forces as the price being quoted by the U.S. authorities was around $5bn for ten C-17 Cargo aircraft which some officials felt was on the higher side.

The C-17 Cargo has been technically qualified by the Indian Air Force and the order hinges on price.

A defence ministry official added that the purchases being done through FMS are working out to be very expensive due to expensive steep upgrade and maintenance costs after the weaponry has a been supplied. Sources added that some of the Weapon Locating Radars purchased in 2002 from the United States under FMS are currently grounded and the U.S. authorities are demanding steep prices for their spares and maintenance.

Since Washington lifted sanctions against New Delhi in 2001, most of the weapons and equipment purchased from the United States has been through FMS, including the purchase of P3I Long Range Maritime reconnaissance Aircraft, Amphibious ship USS Trentron and C-130J Hercules transport aircraft.

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