New York: India, a big buyer of American arms, is understandably concerned by a key US senate committee report that finds vast numbers of counterfeit Chinese electronic parts are being used in US military equipment. Where does it leave India if suspect parts have crept into US-built aircrafts and missiles it has bought or put on its shopping list? The failure of a single electronic component could put an Indian airman or soldier at risk.
Over a 14-month investigation, the Senate committee’s investigative staff amassed a database with 1,800 cases of counterfeiting involving about 1 million parts. It found that 70 percent of the suspect parts were traced to fly-by-night, unscrupulous Chinese companies who supplied electronics and other computer chips to large US defence manufacturers.
Defence Minister AK Antony told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Wednesday that India was verifying if "faulty spare parts made in China" were used in defence equipment being sold by the US to India.
"There have been media reports in this regard, which are being verified," Antony said this week.
According to Bloomberg, the US Air Force had in January this year suspended a company called Hong Dark Electronic Trade Co., in Shenzhen (in southern China), from supplying parts to US contractors after it supplied about 84,000 fake components to a middleman, who then sold the suspect electronic parts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, L-3 Communications, among others.
Bloomberg quoted Air Force Deputy General Counsel Steven Shaw’s memo saying; “Many of the 84,000 electronic parts from Hong Dark have been installed on aircraft such the C-17 transport and helicopters such as the AH-64 Apache and CH-46.”
Given Shaw’s memo, India should double-check what it is paying for when it receives new aircraft. The first of the 10 Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft ordered last year will be delivered to the Indian Air Force in June next year. India is forking over $4.1 billion (Rs 22,960 crore) to buy the US Air Force's workhorse used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan, making it the largest defence contract to have been signed by the two governments.
Antony listed some of the other US military equipment India had bought in the last five years. Last year, India purchased an amphibious transport vessel, the USS Trenton (re-christened INS Jalashwa), for nearly $50 million with six-UH-3H helicopters to operate alongside, costing another $49 million.
It also bought Harpoon anti-submarine missiles under a package worth $200 million, and long-range acoustic devices, modern hull penetrating periscopes, side scan sonar, C-130J transport aircraft, sensor-fused weapons, P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and quick reaction team boats from the US.
One reason India is beefing up its arsenal is China, which has been expanding its military and modernising its equipment at a tear. This has triggered a simultaneous build-up of advanced weaponry in the Asia-Pacific region on a scale and at a speed not seen since the Cold War arms race between America and the Soviet Union.
India has purchased some $12.7 billion in arms, 80 percent of them from Russia, during 2007-2011, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). India and the US want to eventually move beyond a seller-buyer relationship to substantial co-production and eventually, high-technology joint research and development of weapons.
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Updated Date: Aug 11, 2012 07:16:17 IST