US Secretary of Defence Austin Lloyd will be meeting Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi next week even as both sides will be finalising pending deals days before PM Modi’s visit to the US in June

New Delhi: General Electric’s (GE) plan to manufacture fighter jet engines in India, a multi-billion dollar government-to-government deal, is going to be finalised during the visit of US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin next week, ABP Live has learnt. Both countries are also expected to firm up plans to purchase 30 MQ-9B armed drones from General Atomics, when Secretary Austin meets Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi. They are also likely to discuss an early conclusion of the ‘Air Information Sharing’ agreement, top-level official sources said.

The plans to develop complex jet engine technology in India by Ohio-based GE Aerospace, a subsidiary of GE, has been under discussion for over a year now, sources said.

According to sources, the deal is likely to be announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US next month.

PM Modi will embark on an official state visit to the US from June 21 to 24, where he will be hosted by President Joe Biden at the White House.

In January this year following the talks held in Washington on the US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technologies (iCET), the White House said it has received an application from GE to jointly make the engines here in India. The first round of iCET talks were held in Washington DC by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan.

The idea is to manufacture GE’s F414 complex jet engines in India under the government’s ‘Atmanirbhar’, or self-reliance, plan in order to power the country’s indigenous fighter planes such as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS MK-2.

GE F404 engine currently powers the MK-1 version. India also has plans to develop 114 multirole fighter jets in collaboration with foreign manufacturers.

The US has also said that it is willing to go for full transfer of jet engine technology with India. This was announced by Frank Kendall, Secretary, US Air Force, during his visit to India in March when he met NSA Doval and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

“Secretary Austin will visit New Delhi to meet with Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and other leaders as the United States and India continue to modernize the U.S.-India Major Defense Partnership,” said the Pentagon in a statement issued Thursday.

It added, “This visit provides an opportunity to accelerate new defence innovation and industrial cooperation initiatives and drive ongoing efforts to expand operational cooperation between the U.S. and Indian militaries.”

Yet another deal that can see light of the day during this visit is that of weaponised unmanned aerial vehicles.

India had expressed its intention to acquire these drones for all the three services — Army, Navy and Air Force — in an effort to strengthen its presence and boost surveillance in sensitive sectors of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China as well as in the maritime domain as the country increases presence of its military in the Indian Ocean region.

Air Information Sharing Pact

India, which also holds the designation of ‘Major Defence Partner’ of the US, is also in talks with Washington to conclude an ‘Air Information Sharing’ pact that will not only lead to greater interoperability between the Air Forces of both sides but will also help them enter India’s military aircraft market, said the sources quoted above.

At the Aero India Show this year, US aircraft dominated Indian skies even as Washington showed its military might by sending F-35 and F-16 fighter planes and supersonic heavy bombers B-1B Lancers to Bangalore.

Under the iCET, both sides have decided to develop a new bilateral Defence Industrial Cooperation Roadmap to accelerate technological cooperation between both countries for the joint development and production, with an initial focus on exploring projects related to jet engines, munition-related technologies, and other systems.

Last month, air forces of both countries jointly held the Exercise Cope India-23 at West Bengal’s Panagarh Air Force base and also at the Air Force stations in Kalaikunda and Agra. The aircraft that participated this time from the US side were B1B bombers and F-15, while India fielded C-130 Js, Rafale, Sukhoi and TEJAS.