New Delhi: A race for Indian military contracts worth billions of dollars will heat up this month when the world’s top arms makers descend on South Asia’s biggest defence fair.
About 300 international weapons companies from 30 countries have signed up for the four-day “DefExpo” in New Delhi from16 February, and there are expectations of several big-ticket announcements.
The Indian defence ministry said it expects healthy participation from arms vendors in what is billed as one of Asia’s largest defence shows, an official who declined to be named said in an informal briefing to reporters.
Since 1999, India’s military purchases have been worth $25 billion. The country, which has the world’s fourth largest military, is expected to buy another $30 billion of arms in the next four years.
Up for grabs are deals for six submarines worth $2.3 billion, an artillery contract tagged at three billion dollars and a global tender for helicopters as well as for scores of unmanned aerial vehicles.
India also plans to issue a tender for 126 war planes worth $10.24 billion as early as March. Russia, which has ongoing projects worth $14.56 billion, wants to keep its position as India’s top weapons supplier and will be participating in the fair, the defence official said.
“They are finally wisening up to competition. So besides the usual presence of their Rosoboronexport State Corp., the Russians will be represented in a big way at the DefExpo,” the defence official said.
Another senior defence ministry source said India may announce a $2 billion contract with US-based Boeing for eight long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
“Price negotiations began after the deal was cleared last month by the defence acquisition council and we can expect an announcement,” the defence source said.
If awarded to Seattle-based Boeing, it would be India’s biggest defence contract so far with the United States.
Earlier this month, Delhi approved a $1billion purchase of six Hercules transport aircraft from US-based aviation giant Lockheed Martin. Lockheed is also in the race for the 126 fighter jets.
Also up for grabs is a major helicopter contract. India in December scrapped a $600 million deal for 197 choppers with Eurocopter, a unit of Europe’s EADS, citing irregularities in the contract process. The country subsequently said it would combine other defence service helicopter needs and increase the order to 312.
“The combined global tender for the helicopters is (now) being issued,” defence minister A.K Antony said without elaborating, as EADS said it would re-join the race for the deal, which is now worth more than $1billion.
“EADS is here to present state-of-the-art technology which are in most cases fully compliant with the requirements of the (Indian) armed forces,” said Stefan Billep, head of EADS-India.