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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visits US naval air station, reflects on strong ties

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Washington, Dec 18: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Naval Air Station base at Norfolk in Virginia in the US during which he observed a static display and a Boeing fighter jet demonstration as the two sides reflected on the "strong defence ties."

Singh, along with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, is in the US for the second 2+2 dialogue on Wednesday. They are being hosted by their US counterparts Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visits US naval air station, reflects on strong ties

"Visited the Naval Air Station Oceana, Norfolk in the USA and observed a static display, and also F/A-18E flight demonstration," Singh said in a tweet on Tuesday. "At the Naval Station Norfolk, I had the opportunity to be on board USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier and we reflected on the strong defence ties between India and the United States," he said in another tweet.

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Singh's visit to the air station gains significance given that India is seriously looking into these options of fighter jets both for its air force and navy.

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    Boeing, the manufacture of F/A-18E, has offered Block III of these fighter jets which, according to its officials, has carrier compatibility, advanced capability, affordability meaning low acquisition cost plus low cost per flight hour.

    "International interest in the Super Hornet remains high and includes Finland, Switzerland, India and Germany, who recently down selected the Super Hornet over the competition. There are over 400 F/A-18 sales opportunities outside the US," said Thom Breckenridge, vice president, Strike, Surveillance & Mobility, Global Sales and Marketing, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, in a recent interview.

    "The F/A-18's integration with Indian carriers would demonstrate India's commitment as a 'Major Defense Partner' and the Asia Pacific Reassurance Initiative, serving as an important symbol of the new relationship between the United States and India," Breckenridge told PTI.

    In fact, the F/A-18 is the anchor of US-India naval aviation cooperation that can result in sharing of tactics, upgrades and knowledge and sharing of best practices in modern naval aviation systems, carrier integration know-how, services and training and weapon systems.

    "New to our India offer is "By India - For India" sustainment, training services and upgrades offering. Will leverage our current supplier base in India for F/A-18 Super Hornets to deliver high rates of mission readiness to our customers at competitive pricing, throughout the lifecycle of the aircraft," he said.

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    Boeing in India has been providing sustainment and training services to Indian Air Force and Navy with mission readiness rates of over 85 per cent for the C-17 and P-8I India fleets, he added. Breckenridge asserted that Boeing is uniquely qualified to offer mission capability rates using a scalable yet flexible solution to the Indian Navy building on successful sustainment programs that are currently being executed for the Indian Navy and Air Force.

    "Boeing will partner with the Indian Navy, Indian private and public sector organisations, and US-based industry partners to localize specific capabilities that will allow F/A-18 Super Hornet to be sustained from India throughout the lifecycle," he said in response to a question.

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