As India prepares for the Aero India Show in Bengaluru, being held from 20 to 24 February, the US has promised to send a battery of US Naval assets, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet from VFA-27 Marine Corps Air Station in Japan to the event as a part of strengthening defence cooperation between the two countries. This would be the largest ever participation of US in the Aero India exhibition, which will see the participation of 28 countries.
In addition, more than 100 US defence personnel will support the American delegation at the show. Having bagged a lucrative Indian defence deal worth $17 billion in 2007, the US looks pumped to be a part of the aerial show.
US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, who is also the head of the delegation to the show said that US and India were committed to strengthening defence cooperation, in line with India's status as a major defence partner. "I am pleased to be here to support our largest-ever US participation in Aero India. Defence acquisitions are an important component in deepening our bilateral ties and contributing to a balanced trade relationship," he said in an official statement.
Other US Naval assets on display will include the P-8 from VP-47 Naval Air Station in Whidbey Island, Washington, the C-17 Globemaster-III airlifters assigned to the 535th Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, F-16 Fighter Falcons, the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base in Japan, and a fly-by by the iconic B-52 Stratofortress bombers from the Andersen USAF base at Guam. The Boeing-manufactured B-52 Stratofortress aircraft is a long-range subsonic strategic bomber, which can carry up to 32,000 kg of weapons with a combat range of 8,800 miles without aerial refuelling. The B-52 bombers, which will fly over the Yelahanka Air Force station during the inaugural day of the airshow, are assigned to the 23rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron at the Andersen base," according to the US embassy.
Meanwhile, in another mega deal in the pipeline, India recently issued the "letter of request" to the US government for the Rs 13,500 crore acquisition of 24 naval multi-role MH-60 'Romeo' helicopters, armed with torpedoes and missiles for potent anti-submarine warfare capabilities. The government-to-government deal for the MH-60 choppers, manufactured by Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin, under the US foreign military sales (FMS) programme is expected to be inked within a year, The Times of India reported.
India has bought some of its weapons systems from the US, like the C-17 Globemaster-III strategic airlift aircraft, C-130J "Super Hercules" planes and M-777 ultralight howitzers, through the FMS programme. The US, of course, is now also aggressively hawking its F/A-18 or F-16 fighter production line for the IAF's over $20 billion "Make in India" competition for 114 jets as well as the Navy's quest for 57 carrier-capable fighters. India and the US are also in advanced talks for 22 armed Predator-B or weaponised Sea Guardian drones.
In addition, the US Department of Commerce and US Department of State officials will also participate in the show. The US government delegation includes deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment Alan Shaffer, director of the defense security cooperation agency Lieutenant General Charles Hooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense Dr Joseph Felter, senior defense attaché to India Major General Robin Fontes, director, Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate at Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Brigadier General Sean M Farrell and Navy International Programs Office Executive Director, Dr Walter F Jones
The US Embassy said, "Our two militaries work together to protect freedom of navigation in the air and sea, and to combat terrorism and violent extremism. The robust public and private participation by the United States in Aero India demonstrates the importance the United States places on its strategic partnership with India."
Updated Date: Feb 20, 2019 09:13:20 IST