US Bats for its Fighter Aircraft Makers

By Arun Kumar

Washington, Jan 12 (IANS) Ahead of a high technology business development trade mission to India, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has advocated for US fighter aircraft manufacturers saying the US is a willing and capable defence partner.

Locke, who would lead the trade mission to India from Feb 6-11, told Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar at a meeting here Tuesday that the US government views high technology defence sales as a cornerstone of the US-India strategic partnership.

Two US planes, Lockheed Martin's F-16 and Boeing's F/A-18 are competing with Russian MiG-RAC's MiG-35, French Dassault's Rafale, Swedish Saab's Gripen and European consortium EADS' Eurofighter Typhoon for a $10 billion deal for 126 fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

The tendering process for the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), initiated in August 2007, has entered its final phase after the IAF carried out the flight and weapons evaluation of the six competing aircraft for what has been described as the "mother of all deals".

Locke met Shankar to discuss bilateral trade and investment issues as he prepares to lead the high technology business development mission that will make stops in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore, the Commerce Department said.

Over 70 companies applied to participate in the US mission in order to promote US exports of high technology products and services in key economic sectors: civil-nuclear trade, defence and security, civil aviation, and information and communications technology.

US exports of goods to India are up 15.2 percent through the first 10 months of 2010 and projected to surpass $19 billion for the entire year - an all-time high.

Advanced technologies, including aerospace, specialised materials, information and communications technologies, electronics and flexible manufacturing systems underpinned this growth, the department said.

Overall US exports to India were $16.4 billion in 2009, making India the 17th largest export market. Exports to India through October 2010 reached approximately $16.1 billion.



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