Washington, Feb 25: Top Indian and US defence officials will meet in New Delhi this week to draw a roadmap to fast track the implementation of four projects identified for co-development and co-production and formation of a joint working group on aircraft carriers.
US Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (AT&L), Frank Kendall, who is in India, will announce the name of the official who would lead the American side in this joint working group. The Indian side too is expected to name its lead, following which the joint working group would formally become operational.
The idea of co-operation in the field of aircraft carrier was first discussed in early September leading up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit in September last year.
"We laid the ground work in September and October and then it became part of the (India US) joint statement in January (after US President Barack Obama's India trip)," the official said, adding that the working group would explore opportunities for co-operation in aircraft carrier capabilities and techniques in construction.
India is embarking on a next generation aircraft carrier construction, and there are potentially multiple areas that would be of mutual interest in discussing it, the official said.
"We need to understand what they are interested in...because of the complexities of the platform we are proposing a working group. What we are committed to do in this trip is to bring name forward who would be our lead on the US side from the US Navy to lead that working group. We hope to receive the name of India's lead of the working group," the official said.
During the meeting, the two sides will discuss various initiatives, including the 'Cheel' project to manufacture unmanned aircraft system. A senior defence department official said the 'Cheel' project is expected to be the quickest one, with the two countries likely to announce this week setting up of a small working group to "develop a business model" to move forward with co-development and co-production of the mini-Raven.
While the Lockheed Martin's 'Roll On and Roll Off Kits' project for C-130s and other aviation platforms project could be seen entering phase of developing a business plan by year end, Pentagon officials hoped that India will finally join it on two other projects of developing mobile electric hydro power source and next generation chemical biological protection suit.
"I see this (joint working group) as a significant first step to fulfilling the vision under DTTI (Defence Trade and Technology Initiative), which is this joint government and industrials relationship to mutually develop capability and put that capability into production," a senior Defence Department official told PTI.