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Pentagon gets set to grab piece of Delhi pie

New Delhi, Sept. 7: A team from the US military headquarters at Pentagon will make a series of competitive presentations to the Indian defence establishment tomorrow.

US Air Force members of the team will hardsell the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft and the US Navy representatives will campaign for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft.

The team is led by General Jeffrey Kohler, head of the Pentagonís Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).

The team comprises representatives of the US Air Force, the US Navy, Lockheed Martin, manufacturers of the F-16 and the Patriot III missile, Boeing, makers of the Super Hornet, and Raytheon, which supplies the avionics and navigation equipment for the Patriot.

The presentation will be made to an Indian side led by the vice-chief of air staff. Washington has offered to sell to Delhi both the F-16 and the Super Hornet. They are in the race for one of the biggest fighter aircraft orders in global aviation and are competing also with the Grippen (Sweden), the Mirage 2000-V (France) and the MiG29-M/M2 (Russia).

The Indian Air Force had sent requests for information to buy 126 multi-role combat aircraft of the above-20-tonne category.

The order for the aircraft, each of which is expected to cost in the region of Rs 100 crore, spread over 10 years, is the most sought after by aviation industry majors.

The presentations by the Pentagon team will be with the aid of electronic audio-visual equipment and thick wads of charts.

New Delhi and Washington have reached an informal agreement that the transaction would be government-to-government and not company-to-government.

The Indian request was sent to Lockheed Martin directly but the US government also routed it to Boeing for the Super Hornet.

The F-16 is flown as one of the main weapons of the US Air Force. The Super Hornet, based on aircraft carriers for combat, is the main air weapon of the US Navy.

Representatives of Lockheed Martin and Boeing have been included in the team as their companies would be the main contractors to service the order in the event the US wins it.

In November, the US Air Force is to hold bilateral combat exercises (Cope India 2005) with the Indian Air Force out of Kalaikunda near Calcutta.

But before that exercise, the US Air Force will deploy another team to make a presentation on F-16s in combat. That presentation will illustrate the use of the aircraft in operations from Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf (1991) to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in 2001 and 2003.

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