'Deal to buy 24 choppers from USA by 2019 end'

'Deal to buy 24 choppers from USA by 2019 end'

Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh (C), Retired Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba (L) and FICCI President Sandip Somany attend the international seminar on 'Nation Building Through Shipbuilding’, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

India is likely to sign a mega defence deal with the USA to buy 24 multi-role helicopters for the Navy at a cost of nearly Rs 17,000 crore ($ 2.6 billion), Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh said here on Thursday.

“In the multi-role helicopter project, the procedure for Letter of Request and Letter of Acceptance is on. We should be able to sign it by the end of this year,” Admiral Singh told reporters on the sideline of a FICCI seminar here.

In April, the Donald Trump administration issued an official notification to sell 24 MH-60R multi-mission helicopters through the Foreign Military Sales route. As per the US law, the proposal has to be formally approved by the Congress before the actual sale can take place.

This was the first Indo-US defense deal approved after the two countries in September signed the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) – one of the foundation agreements that Washington wanted New Delhi to sign in order to set the ground for transfer of high-tech US military equipment.

While approving the sale, the USA said it would not alter the basic military balance in the region. For years, USA evinced interest in partnering with  India in a major way to counter growing military threats from China.

Asked about China's naval plans, Admiral Singh said India kept a close watch on the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's activities as the communist country diverted resources from sundry other sources to strengthen its Navy.

“Lot of resources have been shifted from other arms to PLA Navy, obviously in-line with their intention to become a global power. We have to watch that carefully and see how we can respond within our budget and constraints. We require long term financial support to build a Navy and that is the only way we can plan,” the Navy Chief said.

A day before Beijing released a White Paper on its defense preparedness. The document says the PLAN with its submarines, surface ships, aviation and coastal defense has a very important standing in the overall configuration of China’s national security and development.

“The PLAN is speeding up the transition of its tasks from defense on the near seas to protection missions on the far seas, and improving its capabilities for strategic deterrence and counter-attack, maritime maneuver operations, maritime joint operations, comprehensive defense, and integrated support, so as to build a strong and modernized naval force,” says the Chinese document.