India, U.S. to sign $3.5B defense deal

Sept. 28, 2010 at 4:28 PM
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NEW DELHI, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- India and the United States are set to sign a landmark $3.5 billion defense deal, the biggest ever between the two countries.

Although details of the prospective deal have yet to be officially released, local media in India reported that the agreement would include the purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft for the Indian air force.

The advanced airplanes are intended to replace India's aging fleet of Russian-made Ilyushin IL-76s.

The Economic Times reported that the deal was due to be signed in November when U.S. President Barack Obama visits India.

The same newspaper said the deal was being concluded through government-to-government negotiations under the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program.

"The C-17 is likely to provide the Indian air force with much stronger transport capabilities," The Economic Times said explaining that the Boeing-made Globemaster, known also as the Hercules C-17, is best utilized for air dropping paratroopers and supplies, emergency evacuations and carrying heavy equipment.

The transport plane was largely deployed by the United States in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

Bent on bolstering its military might and becoming a regional superpower, India announced plans recently to spend up to $30 billion on its military by 2012.

In recent months, also, it inducted a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile into its armed forces, unveiling, also, a defense spending budget spiked by 24 percent since last year.

The moves have Pakistan fretting, with leading officials billing India's drive a "massive militarization."

Boosting its defense artillery, India last week successfully launched a surface-to-surface supersonic missile, marking the first missile to be tested in supersonic speed in steep-dive mode.

India is also in the process of expanding its defense ties with Poland, discussing possible joint research and development of weapons.

The Economic Times reported that while the multibillion-dollar defense deal would be finalized at the government level, "Boeing will handle its implementation as well as the offsets."

Once the deal is successfully completed, India will have the largest C-17 fleet outside the United States. England currently hosts the largest fleet outside the United States with eight planes. Qatar and Australia follow, respectively.

The massive multiservice C-17 Globemaster can carry large combat equipment and troops. It can also serve as important airlift support for humanitarian aid missions bound across large distances to small airfields that have runways just 3,500 feet long and 90 feet wide. It can carry a payload of around 170,000 pounds and has a range of more than 3,200 miles.

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