2016-08-02 By Gulshan Luthra
New Delhi. The Indian Navy has initiated the first steps towards acquiring the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) as well as the long-range surveillance drone Predator B Guardian by sending Letters of Request (LORs) to the Pentagon under government-to-government deals.
The LORs, requesting price and availability for 22 Guardians and three EMALS catapults, are now under consideration by the US Department of Defense (DOD) for clearance under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
According to sources in Washington, a positive view is likely to be taken and discussions between the two countries should begin soon.
Once the process is through, the US Government (USG) will confirm by sending Letters of Acceptance (LOAs).
The Predator B Guardian is a naval version for long-range surveillance over the waters and will contribute to maritime domain awareness.
The Indian Navy is considering the EMALS for its second indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vishal due out by 2028. EMALS has been adopted by the US Navy as its next generation aircraft launch system, and again significantly, for its new generation aircraft carriers beginning with CVN 78 Gerald R Ford.
Dr Vivek Lall, Chief Executive Global Commercial Strategic Development for the San Diego-based General Atomics which makes these two systems, declined comment but told India Strategic: “As far as General Atomics is concerned, we will be opening an office in the Indian capital to assist both the Governments as required.”
Notably the Guardian is a high performance Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, and could only be sold to India after it cleared the Missile Technology Control regime (MTCR) regulations. Powered by a high performance Honeywell TPE331-10 turboprop engine, it operates from a high altitude of 50,000 feet (about 15 km) and can fly for 27 hours before returning to its base.
It is equipped with day-night sophisticated sensors including Raytheon’s SeaVue multi-mode maritime radar to identify and track vessels of different sizes, signals and electronic intelligence systems, satellite communication and even the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS).
The EMALS uses the propulsion power of electromagnetic energy, and the advantage of the system is that it can adapt to launch different sizes of aircraft from a carrier deck with the flick of a switch. Using Direct Current electricity, it is also being devised to launch satellites in the coming years.
The existing generation of aircraft launch steam catapults, developed decades ago, are much slower.
The Indian Government has acted fast to acquire these assets towards securing the Indian waters against terrorist and hostile intrusions. The LORs in fact were sent by the Navy soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Washington in June, just as the US also anchored India’s entry into MTCR and declared India to be a Major Defense Partner (MDP).
There are no confirmed financial figures for either the drones or the EMALs, but according to industry sources, the list price for the 22 Guardians should be around US two billion dollars.
Overall though, General Atomics, the biggest privately-held US defense company, could land with big multi-billion dollar deals in the coming years as the Indian Air Force (IAF) has also expressed interest in acquiring more than 100 Predator C Avenger attack drones. IAF had sent a communication in September last year, and significantly during Mr Modi’s visit, this requirement was mentioned at the highest levels.
The jet-powered Avenger is a high performance next-generation drone, or Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), for time-sensitive strike missions. It fires missiles to neutralize multiple hostile targets with precision with the flick of a command sent through satellites.
As the procedural paperwork for this drone could also begin only after the MTCR clearance, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) should clear the proposal in due course. (India has just become the 35th Member of MTCR).
Notably, FMS deals require government-to-government (G-to-G) negotiations but with active support from the industry which manufactures every system in the US. The process ensures reasonable pricing, largely in accordance with what the US armed forces would pay for similar systems.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) of the Department of Defense (DOD) however charges a fee within a band of 2.5 to 5 percent to facilitate the process.
For instance, in the case of Boeing C 17 heavy lift transport aircraft; this was fixed at 3.8 percent. The fee varies for different deals, but will be the same for every country that buys the same system from the US.
The EMALS system is accompanied by Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) to assist in secure landing of aircraft.
Republished with the permission of our partner India Strategic.
For our look at the Emals onboard the CVN-78, see the following: