U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is expected to offer India a new U.S. made tactical aircraft for sale during his two day visit to the subcontinent in June 2015, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported last week.
Additionally, Carter will sign a 10-year India-U.S. Defense Framework Agreement, which outlines concrete steps to bolster Indo-U.S. defense ties including the co-production of weapons in India. The U.S. defense secretary also plans to accelerate the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) and review progress on defense technology transfers from the United States to India.
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Industry sources said that under the DTTI, which Carter initiated as deputy defence secretary in 2012, the US was expected to offer the Textron AirLand Scorpion light-attack and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft currently being developed to the Indian Air Force (IAF).
With a unit cost of less than $20 million the Scorpion has been dubbed the “world’s most affordable tactical jet aircraft.” According to the developers one Scorpion flight hour only costs $3,000 in comparison to $25,000 for a F-16.
“The Scorpion fills the gap between light turboprop aircraft and expensive jet land attack aircraft. If the customer is found production of the Scorpion might begin in 2015. Deliveries can begin in 15-18 months after production order is received,” military-today.com states.
Additionally, the article summarizes the plane’s capabilities:
The Scorpion can do light attack, reconnaissance, domestic interdiction, air patrol and training. This aircraft is limited to low threat battlefield missions. However it outperforms turboprop aircraft in terms of range, endurance and sensors. It is claimed that aircraft is rugged enough to sustain minimal damage. Unlike most ground attack aircraft the Scorpion uses many commercially available off-the-shelf components for the business jets, mostly form the Cessna inventory.
However, Indian Air Chief Marshall Arup Raha has allegedly expressed interest in using the plane as an intermediate jet trainer due to repeated delays to the HAL HJT-36 Sitara jet trainer aircraft, currently being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
While in India, Ashton Carter is also expected to convince New Delhi to sign a $2.5 billion contract for 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache and 15 Boeing CH-47F Chinook helicopters for the Indian Air Force.
However, the Defense Framework Agreement is not just about arms exports U.S. officials have been at pains to emphasize.
“We are looking to do more in terms of [military] exercises and joint training and interoperability with our Indian counterparts,” U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma said on April 28. “Hopefully we will provide more in terms of increasing India’s indigenous capability to make defense products (…) We have re-energized or launched 30 new initiatives, 30 different dialogues,” he added.