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Boeing confirms Indian order for 10 C-17s as Indian defence market grows

altBoeing has finalised a contract to supply ten of its C-17 Globemaster III airlifters to the Indian Air Force, which will replace its Il-76 transports.

Boeing was awarded a US$1 781 413 Foreign Military Sales contract on February 2, concluding a three year negotiation process. However, the contract’s value represents only a fraction of the amount that India is expected to pay for its ten C-17s. In April 2010 the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of the possible sale to India, and quoted the value of potential sale as amounting to US$5.8 billion. In June 2011 India’s Cabinet approved the sale of the aircraft, amounting to US$4.8 billion.

Delivery of the aircraft is to begin in 2013 and end in 2014. In June 2011, it was reported that the Indian Air Force could buy more C-17s later. The Indian Air Force plans to base its C-17s at Hindon Air Force Station, where its recently acquired C-130Js are based.

The C-17s will replace the Indian Air Force’s 17 Il-76 transports, which are only able carry around 50 000 kg, compared to the C-17’s maximum of 74 000 kg. Both aircraft have a similar range, but the C-17 overall has better performance. However, at more than US$250 million per aircraft, it is far more expensive than the Il-76.

The C-17 contract comes months after New Delhi rejected bids from Lockheed Martin (for its F-16) and Boeing (for its F/A-18) for its MMRCA fighter competition. The US saw the rejection as a huge setback, especially after lobbying by Barack Obama and American efforts to improve ties with India. However, the rejection of American fighters in favour of Dassault’s Rafale has been sweetened by the C-17 deal, and many others with the United States.

The Indian Air Force is upgrading its transport fleet, and recently took delivery of six Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules, to be used for special operations. It is also developing a medium transport with Russia and seeking new tanker aircraft.

India is the world’s largest arms importer and plans to spend around US$100 billion over the next decade to upgrade its largely Soviet-era military equipment. In what has been described as one of the world's most dangerous regions, with three nuclear-armed countries bordering each other, India's fears of the rising might of China and threats from Pakistan - along with a underdeveloped aerospace industry - have made it the world's leading weapons importer.

One of India’s most ambitious projects is its joint development of a stealth fighter with Russia, based on the Sukhoi T-50. India will start taking delivery of 250 aircraft by 2015.

In addition, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is developing its own stealth aircraft, called the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, planned to be in service by 2025. Meanwhile, its Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is undergoing final testing and is expected to be introduced into the Air Force soon.

With regard to helicopters, bids are out for 22 combat helicopters and 15 heavy lift helicopters. It was reported in Indian media late last year that Boeing's AH-64 Apache was the front runner to win the US$1.4 billion deal for combat helicopters, having beaten the Mil Mi-28N. In addition, the country also ordered 12 AW101 helicopters, made by a unit of Finmeccanica, to be used for VIP transportation, and is building the locally developed Dhruv utility helicopter and Dhruv-derived Light Combat Helicopter. The army plans to obtain 114 Dhruvs and has a joint requirement for about 400 light helicopters along with the air force.

The Indian navy is undergoing a 15-year modernisation plan. While the erstwhile Russian aircraft carrier, Gorshkov, is slated for introduction later this year, India is also building another aircraft carrier with completion due in 2013 and has plans to build another by 2017.

Up to 11 new destroyers, and 10 frigates are to be introduced, starting 2012, to replace its ageing fleet. It has also started construction on six Scorpene class diesel-electric submarines and plans to have six nuclear-powered submarines in service within the next few decades.

The navy plans to equip its carriers with about 40 Russian Mikoyan MiG-29 combat jets, and is also developing a naval version of the LCA. It also has 12 Boeing P-8 anti submarine and reconnaissance aircraft on order.

It also plans to introduce 60 anti submarine warfare and about 50 light helicopters, apart from 120 domestically-built light helicopters.

The army plans to introduce about 250 locally built main battle tanks and about 1 650 Russian T-90 tanks by 2020. It also plans to develop and introduce 155 mm artillery guns within the next three years.

A modernization program for its soldiers, dubbed "Future Infantry Soldier As a System" is supposed to be completed by 2020. The army is also expanding along India's eastern border with China, with plans to raise 15 000 additional troops and a new artillery division.

In addition, India is developing Agni V and VI intercontinental ballistic missiles, capable of carrying nuclear warheads for distances over 6 000 km (3 700 miles).

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