NEW DELHI — India and Japan will establish a joint working group to explore cooperation on the US-2 amphibious aircraft made by Japan’s ShinMaywa.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, agreed to the plan during May 29 talks in Tokyo.
A ShinMaywa executive said the joint working group will decide terms of the cooperation, but said it could possibly include joint production, operation and training on the US-2 amphibious aircraft.
“Cooperation on the long-range US-2 amphibious aircraft between India and Japan is more an expression of strategic cooperation than a defense cooperation,” said Nitin Mehta, New Delhi-based defense analyst.
The aircraft has a range of 4,500 kilometers and can be used for strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific, added Mehta.
The Indian Navy and Air Force had earlier issued a request for information for the purchase of amphibious aircraft, and Canada’s Bombardier, Japan’s ShinMaywa and Russia’s Beriev have offered amphibious aircraft to meet the requirements.
Defence Ministry sources said cooperation on the US-2 project with Japan could obviate the need for a global tender.
The amphibious aircraft will be placed at the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Indian Ocean, which is the base of India’s Tri-Command and meant to keep vigil on China. The aircraft would spearhead any littoral warfare operations in the Indian Ocean.
The aircraft will be used for maritime patrol, anti-surface warfare, electronic intelligence and search-and-rescue missions.
The Indian Navy requires the amphibious aircraft to be capable of 360-degree coverage so it can detect and track surface vessels, ships, submarine periscopes, and low flying aircraft and missiles.
A Navy official said the US-2 has already been evaluated by them and the aircraft suits its requirements, as it can take off on a 250-meter strip and operate in rough seas.