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Outsource reaches US aerospace

Bangalore, Feb. 13: Several US aerospace companies have offered to outsource projects to Indian defence equipment manufacturers, adding a new dimension to the emerging strategic partnership between the two nations.

The honchos of a dozen US aerospace and consulting companies, part of the US-India Business Council's Executive Defence Mission, vowed to build a long-term strategic relationship with India.

'We view the Indian defence sector not only as a market, but also a potential supplier and partner. And we will be seeking through our discussions to identify additional opportunities in all these areas,' General Joseph W. Ralston, a retired joint chief of staff of the US Air Force and vice-chairman of The Cohen Group, told reporters at Aero India 2005, an international airshow here.

The Cohen Group, an international consulting firm headed by former US secretary of defence William S. Cohen, provides advice on business and strategic opportunities in foreign markets.

Former US ambassador Thomas Pickering, the mission co-leader, said: 'We are interested in and pursuing major platform tenders as well as sub-systems, component and other small countries.'

Listing Boeing's decision to outsource its flight and test software programmes to HCL Limited and a variety of aeronautical projects undertaken by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the former diplomat said: 'If we get permission from the two governments, we can go ahead with similar programmes in the defence sector.'

On India's concerns over continuity of supplies, Pickering said: 'Reliability is a serious issue. We are interested in assuring our Indian friends that new developments and new relationships with India will help set the tone and pace of reliability of supply.

'I would like to emphasise: try us and see how we deliver. You will find that we deliver at the right price and support the equipment we supply. Secondly, we will closely work with Indian partners to ensure that they share the burden of providing the support.'

Pickering said members of the US defence mission met defence minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday to discuss long-term ties.

'This mission is part of the ongoing process by the US industry ' in coordination with our own government and with Indian public and private counterparts ' to build a robust pattern of commercial defence cooperation,' he said.

Back home, the team would follow up with the Bush administration all issues raised by the Indian government.

Lockheed Martin Corporation, in the race for a share of the Indian Air Force's fleet expansion plans with its F-16 combat jets, said it was in the process of identifying partners to establish manufacturing hubs for products, parts and maintenance.

'Lockheed is in the process of evaluating several Indian organisations for such work. Its technical assistance agreement with HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) is one such example. As one of the largest employers in the IT industry, it will look for allies and partners. These will include IT companies and Indian aviation companies in public and private sectors,' a company release said.

Denny Plessas, regional vice-president, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, said his company had secured export licence from the US government for marketing the Hercules C-130J transport plane and the P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft to Indian armed forces.

The defence mission consists of managing directors, presidents and executive directors of Boeing, The Cohen Group, BAE Systems North America, Bell Helicopters, Fremont, General Dynamics, International Turbine Engine Company (Honeywell), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Corporation and Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (United Technologies).

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