Defence secretary Giridhar Aramane said the discussions on the armoured vehicles were taking place under the roadmap concluded in June

NEW DELHI: India is interested in a US offer for joint production of Stryker armoured vehicles to meet the needs of the army, defence secretary Giridhar Aramane said on Friday, adding that the proposed deals for the joint production of GE Aerospace’s F414 engines in the country and the acquisition of next-generation armed drones from the US are on track.

“An initial offer on the (Stryker) infantry combat vehicles has come from the US. We have expressed our interest in discussing it further to take the co-production part ahead,” he said.

His comments came during a joint media briefing with foreign secretary foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra on the 2+2 dialogue co-chaired by defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar and their American counterparts Lloyd Austin and Antony Blinken.

Aramane said the discussions on the armoured vehicles were taking place under the roadmap for future defence industrial cooperation concluded by the two countries in June. The roadmap seeks to fast-track technology cooperation and co-production in critical areas such as air combat and land mobility systems; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; munitions, and the undersea domain.

“Our industrial and military teams will work with their US counterparts and come up with a concrete plan in this regard (joint production of armoured vehicles),” he said.

The Stryker vehicles are manufactured by the US firm General Dynamics Land Systems. India’s mechanised infantry is on the threshold of a critical transformation with the army setting a brisk pace to equip its vital combat arm with a range of new capabilities.

Many new initiatives were struck during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the US in June, Aramane said.

“These initiatives have to be taken to their logical conclusion. The 2+2 dialogue is a continuation of important steps taken during the PM’s visit,” he said.

It was during that visit that GE Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) signed a memorandum of understanding in Washington to produce 99 F414 engines for India’s light combat aircraft (LCA) Mk-2 programme. The deal will involve 80% transfer of technology and is estimated to be worth around $1 billion.

“We are finalising the commercial arrangement, and the necessary legal requirements are being put in place. It (the engine deal) is on track,” he said. The joint production of F414 engines in India will help the country overcome a striking technology gap, lay the foundation for indigenous development of bigger jet engines and possibly open doors to exports; and the deal could be hammered out within a year, HAL chief CB Ananthakrishnan said in an interview to HT last month.

The proposed deal for 31 MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft systems to boost the Indian military’s strength found a mention in the June 22 joint statement issued by the US and India during Modi’s first state visit to the US.

India has sent a letter of request (LOR) to the US government and the latter has to respond, Aramane said.

“The US company has to take clearance from the government and come back to us.” LOR mentions the tri-services requirements, details of equipment and terms of the procurement. The US will respond with a letter of acceptance after which India will begin negotiations, duly factoring in the price and terms offered by Washington to other countries.

To be assembled in India, the versatile platform will have the capability to strike targets with its on-board weapons, it will be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); and its other roles include electronic warfare, defensive counter air and airborne early warning.

Fifteen drones will be for the navy, and eight each for the army and the Indian Air Force. General Atomics has offered the drones to India for $3.07 billion. This, however, is subject to negotiations.

During a bilateral meeting between Singh and Austin, the two ministers discussed a wide range of defence and strategic issues, with a particular focus on enhancing defence industrial cooperation and getting the defence industries from both sides together to co-develop and co-produce weapons and systems, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Singh also symbolically handed over to Austin some items recovered in Assam as part of the US Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency mission to provide the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel to their families and the nation. The items included parts of a parachute, uniforms and an airplane of the US forces from the World War II-era, the statement added.