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OpinionsIndia-US Joint Statement Takes forward the June 22 Deals to Implementation...

India-US Joint Statement Takes forward the June 22 Deals to Implementation Stage


Joint Manufacturing of GE 414 engines for Combat Aircraft can be a reality

By Girish Linganna

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden held a bilateral meeting on Friday (September 8, 2023) on the sidelines of the just-concluded G20 Summit, where both leaders underscored the close ties between and the United States. They reaffirmed their commitment to the cause and principles of the G20 grouping, expressing confidence that the summit would be able to hammer out resolutions that would advance shared goals. This was the first time that President Biden was visiting India as US President. The last US President to have visited India in February 2020 was Donald Trump.

More importantly, the leaders of the two giant economies of the world reaffirmed their commitment to “deepen and diversify” the India-US Major Partnership through greater cooperation in such new and emerging domains as artificial intelligence (AI) and space.

Last June, during PM Modi's State visit to the US, a 58-paragraph joint statement was issued, which made no mention of regional and global issues—such as the situation in neighbouring Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Myanmar. This time around, however, their 29-paragraph joint statement focused solely on bilateral agenda.

In the Modi-Biden joint statement, the importance of the Quad grouping in contributing to an open, free, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific was reaffirmed. India welcomed the USA's decision to co-lead the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Pillar on Trade Connectivity and Maritime Transport in keeping with the US decision to join the IPOI in June 2023, while Modi looked forward to welcoming Biden to the next Quad Leaders' Summit that India is set to host in 2024.

In a lot of senses, Friday's bilateral discussions were taking many of the agreements arrived at in June a step forward with more details being worked out and specifics of implementation being added. The two leaders were upbeat on the start of negotiations for commercial agreement between GE Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) to manufacture 98 kN GE F-414 INS06 jet engines in India upon completion of the Congressional Notification process on August 29, 2023. They reiterated their commitment to working speedily and collaboratively on taking forward this unprecedented co-production and technology transfer proposal.

GE Aerospace has been working with the US government to get the export permission it needs so that India and the US can make the F414-INS6 engine together. The US and India have agreed to speed up their joint collaboration in the military industry. This could pave the way for joint manufacture of General Electric (GE) F414 engines for combat aircraft in future.

The deals were made after Modi and Biden held discussions in Washington on June 22. A new agreement between GE Aerospace and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to make fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force (IAF) was one of the most important components of the deal. The MoU was a “major milestone” of Modi's trip to the US, GE Aerospace had then said. It is also key to strengthening defence cooperation between India and the US. The deal will also be a step forward in actualizing its earlier promise to build 99 F414-INS6 engines for the IAF's Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk 2 project.

The June 22 Washington MoU would also help India choose the F414-INS6 for development, testing and approval of India's fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) project prototype. GE had said it would continue to work with the Indian government on the AMCA Mk 2 engine programme.

In June, the US had also been upbeat on India's plans to procure powerful drones, General Atomics' MQ-9B HALE UAVs (16 Sky Guardian and 15 Sea Guardian remotely piloted aircraft and their associated equipment). This time around, Biden welcomed the request from India's Defence Ministry to buy 31 such units that are expected to substantively enhance the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of India's armed forces across all domains.

India has mastered the technology of designing and building aero-structures for both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft in the past few decades. But there is still much to be done. The aero-engine, for instance, is significantly more difficult to manufacture and, in spite of its experience over many years of licensed production and foreign engine maintenance, India has not been able to come to grips with the technology with any degree of success. The few manufacturers in the market are reluctant to disclose their own innovations which took many years of intensive study and investment. Joint ventures are the only convenient method of obtaining these.

In June, the setting up and launch of the India-US Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X) had evinced much interest in both the leaders with its idea of a network of universities, startups, industry and think tanks. This time around, specifics were detailed involving IIT Kanpur, Penn State University, US accelerator M/s Hacking 4 Allies (H4x) and IIT-Hyderabad. The INDUS-X team has succeeded in establishing a robust collaboration agenda to harness the innovative work of the defence sectors of both countries to address common security challenges. INDUS-X will facilitate joint innovations in defence technology and co-manufacture of state-of-the- defence technology between the two countries' industries concerned.

In August 2023, INDUS-X, with the participation of Penn State University, had convened the inaugural Academia Start-up Partnership at IIT-Kanpur and launched the Joint Accelerator Program for Indian Startups, through a workshop led by M/s Hacking 4 Allies (H4x) and IIT-Hyderabad. Both sides also welcomed the announcement by the Indian of Defence Ministry's Innovations for Defence Excellence and the US Department of Defense's Defense Innovation Unit to launch two joint challenges, which will invite start-ups to devise solutions to the criticalities posed by shared defence technology.

The US Department of Defense's Space Force has also signed its first International Cooperative and Development Agreement with Indian start-ups 114 AI and 3rdiTech. Both of these companies will collaborate with General Atomics to co-manufacture components using state-of-the-art technologies in artificial intelligence (AI) and semiconductors, respectively.

The June commitment on small nuclear reactors also got a fillip as it was decided to intensify consultations between the entities concerned. Modi's Washington visit in June saw the Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) being launched as a major milestone in India-US relations. This time, both the countries decided to hold a midterm review of iCET in September 2023 and to work towards an annual review, coordinated by the National Security Advisers of both countries in early-2024.

The leaders also reaffirmed their resolve to strengthen maritime security cooperation, including through enhanced underwater domain awareness. Both the leaders were also upbeat over the conclusion of a second Master Ship Repair Agreement. The latest agreement was signed by the US Navy and Mazgaon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd, Mumbai, in August this year. In the footsteps of Larsen & Toubro (L&T), which has concluded a second Master Ship Repair Agreement with the US Navy to repair its warships and has, so far, undertaken three such repairs, Mazagaon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd concluded a similar agreement in August 2023. The joint statement underscored that this would signify India emerging as a hub for repair and maintenance of forward-deployed US Navy assets and other aircraft and vessels.

Biden congratulated Modi on Chandrayaan-3's path-breaking success in landing in the Moon's south polar region, as well as India's launch of Aditya-L1, its maiden solar mission. Even as efforts towards establishing a working group for commercial space collaboration under the existing India-US Civil Space Joint Working Group are underway, a surprise decision this time was to ramp up “planetary defense coordination” and protection of Mother Earth and the world's space assets from being impacted by the onslaught of asteroids and near-Earth objects.

(IPA Service)





The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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