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Just NowIndo-US Defense Cooperation in the Wake of Sino-Pak Nexus - I

Indo-US Defense Cooperation in the Wake of Sino-Pak Nexus – I


By Bharat Lather

India occupies one of the most strategically important locations in the . A short distance from the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and Southeast Asia, India has been an important hub for ideas, trade and religion for thousands of years. Unfortunately, that geographic positioning has its disadvantages. India is faced on two sides by powerful, nuclear-armed countries with which it has fought wars with—China and Pakistan. India's most formidable rival and a long term threat is China, with whom it fought a short, sharp border war in 1962 which resulted in a debacle for the Indian army.

China's growing military has transformed it from a mainly ground-based threat to a multifaceted one with powerful assets in the air, at sea and even in space. Furthermore, the December 2015 promotion of the PLA Rocket Force (PLARF) to a full military branch, and the creation of a Strategic Support Force (PLASSF)—which will focus on space and cyber as well as the creation of 5 joint theatre commands also indicate that strategic priorities of the PLA have shifted to information-based joint warfare, and an emphasis on while being able to fight the full spectrum of conflicts from irregular to strategic warfare. The PLA has also shifted its focus away from the historically dominant ground forces and towards bolstering the Navy (PLAN) and Air Force (PLAAF). The PLA's weapons development and procurement efforts have also focused on developing the ability to implement informationized warfighting strategies like anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) to counter US and its allies.

Now, the PLA possesses numerous ballistic missiles from short range to ICBM's, the world's first anti-ship ballistic missiles (DF-21D), an array of air, land, and sea launched cruise missiles, and extremely strong air defenses (S-300PMU2, S-400, HQ-7, HQ-16, and HQ-9).  Additionally, Chinese space capabilities have grown from 10 satellites in 2000 to 181 in 2016.

India's second most powerful rival is Pakistan, which was also part of the British Raj. India and Pakistan have fought four wars since 1947, and appeared on the verge of a fifth during the 2001-02 military stand-off. Under CSF (Coalition Support Funds), Pakistan got $14 billion from USA, which eventually allowed them to sufficiently arm themselves vis-à-vis India. Back in the 2000s, the IAF had a clear superiority over the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) by every possible measure (thanks primarily to the rapid implementation of the Su-30MKI program). Now, however, the situation is completely different. Pakistan has received up-to-date versions of America's F-16 fighters and dozens of the Chinese-Pakistani FC-1 planes. What was once India's complete dominance over the Pakistani Air Force has become a mere superiority? In fact, Pakistan may well achieve near-parity over time if it receives J-10 fighters from China (as well as the J-31, the quasi-5th generation fighter now being developed by the Chinese). Such near-parity between the IAF and the PAF would be completely unprecedented.

Complicating matters for India, the two countries are allies, resulting in nuclear nexus, numerous arms deals, joint military exercises and the most recent being the joint patrolling; clearly illustrating that a two front war seems very likely in India's context. At the same time, Sino-Pak relations are governed by Maoist-era strategy of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”

Advances in military technology mean India's large reserves of manpower are no longer as useful as they once were, and India will need to favor the former over the latter if it wants to match—and deter—Chinese and Pakistani forces.

Introducing P-81 Neptune for the Indian Navy

An emergence of Indo-US defense cooperation comes as a much needed break-through for India. In 2009, India signed a contract worth $ 3.9 billion dollars with Boeing to supply 8 P-8 Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA), and were handed over accordingly. Most recently, India's Cabinet Committee on Security has cleared a $1 billion U.S. order of four Boeing P-8I Neptune maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) for the Indian Navy. These will join the Indian Navy's eight existing P-8Is. India is the first customer for the P-8, and the acquisition of the platform is a good example of the growing Indo-US naval cooperation. The P-8I has a range of over 1200 nautical miles, is capable of in-flight refueling, and can remain on task at a station for 4 hours. Its weapon suite includes the Harpoon Block II anti-ship missile, Mk-54 torpedoes, and depth charges.

The Indian government's decision to purchase four additional Boeing P-8I aircraft through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program addresses a gap in India's airborne anti-submarine warfare capability. While the additional P-8Is will improve the capabilities of the Indian Navy; the current plan is for the four additional aircraft to arrive within the next three years, bringing India's total number of P-8Is to 12. These maritime patrol aircraft have the ability to quickly search a wide area of water with sonobuoy patterns and guide other forces onto suspected “contacts” (submarines).

The additional capability can be crucial, as surface warships and even submarines can find it very difficult to reliably find, shadow, and maintain contact with modern rival submarines in large ocean expanses. It is China's growing submarine fleet that has been the trigger for India's own initiatives to bolster its undersea forces. By 2020, China is likely to have a fleet of more than 70 submarines. The focus on China's rapidly growing underwater warfare capability is central to understanding the importance of anti-submarine warfare for the Indian Navy.

Introducing C-17 Globemaster III and C-130J for the Indian Air Force

In 2011, India's Cabinet Committee on Security approved the purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster III heavy-lift transport aircraft from the United States for use by the Indian Air Force, in a deal worth $4.1 billion and were inducted accordingly. The contract, which has an offset obligation of about $1 billion, is the highest single value military contract that New Delhi has entered into with the United States.

The C-17 planes have significantly enhanced India's strategic lift capacity. With a payload capacity of more than 73,600 kilograms, the planes are capable of carrying 188 passengers, have reverse thrust engines for short turnaround, and are equipped with a missile warning system with flares to disengage any incoming missile attack. Before signing this landmark agreement, the Russian IL-76 ‘Gajraj' and AN-32 has been the Indian Air Force's mainstay for transporting men and material.

Lockheed Martin will be delivering 6 C-130J Super Hercules in 2017 to the Indian Air Force. In addition, the US-firm is also in discussion with the India Meteorological Department for specially configured C-130J aircraft that fly into typhoons and hurricanes to obtain information about major storms far more detailed than is provided by satellites. India placed an order for additional six C-130Js in 2013, besides operating five more. India lost one C-130J airlifter in 2013 crash. West Bengal's Panagarh will be the Indian Air Force's (IAF) second hub for these new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft. Once all 6 planes are delivered, India's fleet will rise to 11.

Introducing AH-64D Apache for the Indian Air Force

Indian selection of the AH-64D Apache as its future attack helicopter is a prime example of technology over manpower. The Apache's versatility means that it will be able to do everything from engage tank formations in a conventional war to hunt guerrillas in a counterinsurgency operation. The heavily armed, fast-moving Apache can counter a number of land-based threats to India, sensing enemy armored vehicles with its mast-mounted millimeter-wave radar and destroying them with Hellfire missiles, Hydra-70 anti-armor rockets and a 30mm chain gun. The helicopter can also detect insurgents under heavy cover using its thermal imaging sensor and engage them with anti-personnel rockets or the 30mm chain gun. Unlike other attack helicopters, the Apache has a proven combat record, destroying armor in Iraq and decimating Taliban hiding in the hillsides of Afghanistan. (Courtesy: IDR)                                                            to be continued…

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