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Eyeing market for military hardware, US offers spares for Sea Harrier jets

August 22, 2003 23:51 IST
Last Updated: August 23, 2003 01:08 IST

In another sign of the growing defence ties between the United States and India, Washington has offered to directly sell vital spares for the navy's Sea Harrier Jump jets and Sea King helicopters.

"At the recent meetings between US and Indian military officers, the former offered on-line sales of these spares to New Delhi," Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice-Admiral John C DeSilva said in Delhi.

This means that India would not have to route the supplies through British manufacturers, who had to first undergo the tedious process of seeking clearance from the US administration.

The use of Sea Harriers, the navy's sole air strike force, as well as the Sea King helicopters, which is used in anti-submarine warfare, had suffered a big blow after the US imposed sanctions following the 1998 nuclear tests, with as many as 30-40 per cent of the fleet grounded at times.

The US is apparently looking at India as a market for military hardware and a high-level team of American officials and weapons manufacturers is expected in September for a sales pitch, but top naval officials are wary of newer sanctions.

"We have to ensure that our battle preparedness does not suffer," DeSilva said while flagging off a naval expedition to the 7,626-metre Sasser Kangri peak in the Ladakh region.

With the induction of the two of three stealth warships from Russia, arrival of the navy's fast attack gunboats from Israel and the nod given to new warships, the Indian Navy is now a force to reckon with in the Indian ocean area, DeSilva said.

On the submarine deal with France, he said under the contract, worth over $2 billion, India would buy six Killer Class submarines outright and manufacture six more under licence at the Mazagoan Docks. The deal is awaiting clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security.

India has also opened negotiations with Canadian, US and some other firms for purchase of four submarine rescue vehicles, he said.

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