Japan’s first major overseas defense deal is facing additional hurdles, with Indian Minister of Defense Manohar Parrikar requesting further clarification of the Indian Navy’s need for 12 Japanese-made ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious search-and-rescue/maritime surveillance aircraft, according to Indian media reports.
The defense ministry was originally supposed to sign off on the deal during a Defense Acquisition Council meeting, headed by Manohar Parrikar, in early November. However, rather than approving the deal, the decision to purchase the US-2i was deferred pending further information from the Indian Navy.
“There is a view in the Ministry that there is still need for further discussion the requirement of these planes for the Navy and what roles they would play in the maritime force,” a source told Mail Today. According to the source, the Indian Navy is preparing a detailed presentation to the government outlining the need for the new aircraft.
Once inducted, the Indian Navy has tentative plans to station a number of US-2i aircraft off the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal, from where they could conduct both surveillance patrols and, given the US-2i’s short take-off capability, search and rescue operations in the eastern Indian Ocean region. (The aircraft has a range of about 4,500 kilometers.)
In October, an unnamed Indian defense official revealed that that India and Japan had reportedly agreed on a price for the 12 US-2i aircraft. “Japan has offered a price concession of more than 10 percent per aircraft from $133 million per aircraft to around $113 million, and the $1.35 billion government to government deal for US-2 amphibious aircraft is now ready for finalization,” the official said.
India to this date has not made an official request to Japan for the procurement of the new aircraft. As I explained last month (See: “India-Japan Amphibious Aircraft Deal Moves Forward”):
So far the Indian MOD has only indicated that it would like to purchase two US-2i aircraft in fly-away condition, whereas the remaining ten (sources say that the Indian Navy requirement is pegged at 12-18 aircraft) should be built in India under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. ShinMaywa, however, thinks that license-building ten US-2i is impracticable and too costly given the small number of aircraft.
In December 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to deepen defense ties between the two countries and singled out the possible sale of US-2i aircraft as a stepping stone for deeper cooperation on defense. Initially, there were reports that the deal would be included in the memorandum of understanding signed by Abe and Modi during the Indian prime minister’s visit to Japan last weekend. However, this was not the case, according to a joint statement issued by the two prime ministers after the India-Japan annual bilateral summit.
“Prime Minister Modi conveyed his appreciation for Japan’s readiness to provide its state-of-the-art defense platforms such as US-2 amphibian aircraft,” the statement reads, according to Indian media reports. “It symbolizes the high degree of trust between the two countries and the distance that Japan and India have covered in advancing their bilateral defense exchanges.” It remains to be seen whether the Indian government can be convinced of the utility of the new aircraft for the Indian Navy. Further delays appear to be likely.