At the 5th India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue on Friday, New Delhi is expected to take up the delays in delivery of General Electric (GE) Aerospace manufactured F404 engines that are powering Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas-Mk IAs fighter jets.

The GE has already handed over 75 such engines to the manufacturer of the Tejas, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), post 1986 and an additional 99 F404-GE-IN20 engines, having better thrust, are on order for which the delivery was to commence from August, this year, but has not happened so far, Defence Ministry sources said.

Government officials wonder if the US can meet the demand of South Korea for the same engines for their supersonic trainer T-50 Golden Eagle, why not to India. The delay, if prolonged, in supply of F404-GE-IN20 engines can impact the Tejas-Mk IAs production timelines. The HAL, as per the 2021 contractual obligation, has to supply 83 LCA Mk IAs to Indian Air Force by 2029 but the handing over has been preponed due to its enhanced production capacity. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, however, had recently announced that they are considering acquiring another 97 Tejas Mk-IAs which would be worth 67,000 crore to meet its operational fleet requirement.

Reviewing progress

Besides this, visiting US Secretary of State Antony J Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar along with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will review progress made in cross-cutting aspects of defence and security cooperation, technology value chain collaborations and people-to-people ties at the India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.

It is also learnt that the two sides will assess as well the progress made in execution of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between GE and HAL during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June visit to the US for co-development of F414 engines for Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas-Mk 2 which are supposed to replace ageing Mig-29s and Mirages squadrons of the Indian Air Force. The process is supposed to kickstart in March, next year, but the indications here are that it might be pushed further, believe defence sources.

The two friendly nations have also to give shape to the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B Reaper drones which India is buying for its three services, Army, Air Force and Navy. About two months ago, India had formally placed request for $ 1.8 billion deal worth 18 predator armed drones as it’s keen to complete the acquisition this fiscal year.

Investors meet

Meanwhile, the Indian Ministry of Defence along with US Department of Defence organised the maiden INDUS-X Investors Meet on Wednesday as a pre-cursor to the 2+2 India-US Ministerial Dialogue, where its INDUS-X Educational Series (Gurukul) was launched too.

Other than that, the interactive meet brought all the stakeholders like start-ups, MSMEs, investors, incubators, industry from both sides under one roof to discuss the collaborative agendas and opportunities thereon, the MoD officially said.

Doug Beck, Director Defence Innovation Unit (DIU), US DoD led the US delegation and Vivek Virmani, PO (G) and COO/iDEX-DIO the Indian delegation. “The event also had focused panel discussions with a select audience of 50 thought leaders, including start-ups, investors, government officials and business leaders from the defence industry. The panel discussed on ‘Investment Opportunities in the Defence Sector’, elaborating upon establishing a sustainable commercial foundation for defence collaboration and co-production,” informed the Ministry.