Wednesday, 4 May 2011

US Wants More Data On Fighter Setback From India

India has agreed to provide the United States with more information about its decision last week to drop two US defence companies from an $11 billion fighter competition, a top US official said on Tuesday.

Assistant secretary of state Andrew Shapiro reiterated the US government's deep disappointment about India's decision, but he said Washington was still pursuing other defence sales with India that could strengthen ties between the two countries.

"Going forward, it's important to recognize that we have a number of sales either in the pipeline or to be considered that will enable us to continue to build the defence trade relationship," Shapiro told a group of business executives who are advising the state department on export control reforms.

"Our strategic relationship is far greater than any one sale," he said.

India last week eliminated Chicago-based Boeing Co's FA-18 SuperHornet and Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp's F-16 from a competition to provide 126 fighters.

Instead, it short-listed the Eurofighter made by Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain, and France's Rafale for the $11 billion contract.

But US arms makers are still jockeying for an estimated $50 billion in sales to India, which plans to modernise its Soviet-era military equipment and technology.

Over the past three years, India has agreed to buy some $10 billion in US military hardware, including six Lockheed C-130J military transport aircraft and eight long-range Boeing P-8 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

Shapiro cited those agreements, and said Washington remained in discussions with India about additional sales of C-130 planes, C-17 cargo planes built by Boeing, and an array of helicopters, as well as other advanced systems.