English India

India approves plan to buy US naval helicopters

India’s cabinet has approved a plan to buy US naval helicopters, a government source said on Wednesday, without giving details.

Media reports earlier said India was likely to give final approval to a $2.6 billion deal for Lockheed Martin helicopters ahead of a visit by US President Donald Trump.

The White House has said Trump will visit India Feb. 24-25.

The US State Department approved the sale of the choppers to India last year along with radars, torpedoes and 10 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

Many of India’s warships are without any helicopters because of years of underfunding, and the navy had sought their acquisition as a top priority.

The multirole helicopters from Lockheed are meant to help the Indian navy track submarines in the Indian Ocean.

The United States has also offered India the armed version of Guardian drones that were originally authorized for sale as unarmed for surveillance purposes, the first such approval for a country outside the NATO alliance.

India plans to buy 30 of these unmanned aircraft for surveillance of the Indian Ocean, at a cost estimated to be about $2.5 billion, from General Atomics.

However, the defense official said the deal is unlikely immediately because of lack of funds.

India’s defense purchases from the United States have reached $17 billion since 2007 as it has pivoted away from traditional supplier Russia.

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