US agrees to sell advanced missile defence system for Air India One

Washington: The US has agreed to sell two advanced missile defence systems to India for two Boeing-777 Head-of-State aircraft for an estimated cost of $ 190 million, a decision that will enhance the security of the planes flying the President and Prime Minister.

According to the Pentagon, the sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the US by helping to strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship.

The Trump administration approved the purchase of the two systems known as Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) and Self-Protection Suites (SPS) for an estimated cost of $ 190 million, the US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a notification to the Congress on Wednesday.

The US decision came after the Indian government recently made the request for LAIRCM and SPS, given the high-level threat to the Prime Minister and President.

The defence systems, which would bring the security of ‘Air India One’ on a par with that of ‘Air Force One’ used by the American President, would be installed in two Boeing 777 Head-of-State aircraft, the Pentagon said.

The Indian government plans to buy two Boeing 777 ERs from the national carrier Air India for this specific purpose. Unlike in the past, the two aircraft would not be used for commercial purposes by Air India.

The purpose of the LAIRCM programme is to protect large aircraft from man-portable missiles. Once installed, the LAIRCM system increases crew-warning time, decreases false alarm rates and automatically counters advanced intermediate range missile systems, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

The missile warning sub-system will use multiple sensors to provide full spatial coverage. The counter-measures sub-system will use lasers mounted in pointer-tracker turret assemblies.

It also automatically counters advanced intermediate range missile systems with no action required by the crew. The pilot will simply be informed that a threat missile was detected and jammed. Observing that it will improve India’s capability to deter regional threats, the Congressional notification said the SPS will facilitate a more robust capability into areas of increased missile threats.

“India will have no problem absorbing and using this system,” the DSCA statement said.

The department said the proposed sale will not “alter the basic military balance in the region”.

The prime contractor will be the Boeing Company. “The purchaser typically requests offsets. Any offset agreement will be defined in negotiations between the purchaser and the contractor,” the DSCA statement said. Implementation of this proposed sale will require the assignment of one additional US contractor representative to India, it said.