Paris: With the bulk of India's military hardware, around 70 per cent, of Soviet origin, and desperately in need of upgrades and replacements, especially in view of the changed technological environment of today, global armament firms are now eyeing up-gradation and extension of service life programmes as a big opportunity.
So far, Israeli firms have specialized in this area of activity, but US defence majors like Raytheon are now expressing an interest in bidding for programmes to upgrade Soviet-era and Russian equipment like the Indian Army's large fleet of T-72 tanks and BMP armoured vehicles.
"We have upgraded the US Army's Bradley armoured vehicles and Abrams tanks and we could use the same technology and know-how to refurbish Soviet gear like the T-72 tanks and BMPs," Walt Doran, president of Raytheon Asia, is reported to have said at the Paris Air Show.
Lee Cooper, vice president of Raytheon Technical Services, an arm that specializes in upgrading and improving military equipment, reportedly indicated that Raytheon's expertise, gained in refurbishing gear of the US marines deployed for the war against terror, could now be put to use in a potential programme to upgrade Indian Army hardware.
"India has a lot of equipment deployed and there are different generations of equipment but our experience could come in handy," Cooper said. Besides the land-based equipment, Raytheon has also shown interest in refurbishing the Indian Navy's Soviet and Russian-origin warships, especially in view of the Navy's plans to focus on network-centric operations.
"It would be a challenge for us to work with the Russian ships and gear but the technological problems can be overcome. The key factor is integrating everything so that the older systems can be used in the future growth path of the Indian Navy," Jack Costello of Raytheon's Network Centric Systems has been reported as saying.
According to reports, Raytheon officials have already had "detailed discussions" with the Indian Navy on its plans to establish network-centric systems.