US to help India acquire latest aircraft carrier technology

04 April 2015

India can hope to have the latest in naval aviation technology, for the first time, with the US government supporting the sale of General Atomics' electromagnetic launching system for aircraft carriers, to India.

Reports quoting defence undersecretary Frank Kendall, who heads the joint US-India defence trade and technology panel, said the Pentagon would support the use of EMALS system for India's latest aircraft carrier.

"I'm optimistic about cooperating with them on that," Kendall told Reuters in an interview.

This is part of a US-India deal for cooperation in defence production and development of key technologies.

Kendall, however, said while he expected the two countries cooperate on a planned aircraft carrier for India, the decision on which technology to use will finally depend on India's needs.

"They're going to have to make their own decision about what technology they want, but I don't see any fundamental obstacles to them acquiring some of our carrier technologies, if they want them," he said.

The US Navy is testing catapults that rely on electromagnetic energy rather than steam to launch fighter jets off aircraft carriers. UN Navy's new Gerald R Ford class aircraft carriers being built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc incorporates the EMALS system.

The Chinese navy is also reported to be trying out the electromagnetic catapult technology for launching aircraft from ships.

The new system helps jets launch off a flat deck at a faster rate and with less fatigue to the aircraft. It also helps carriers to hold more aircraft on their decks.

San Diego, California-based General Atomics plans to sell the system to countries like Brazil as well. This could reduce the cost of the system to foreign countries, the company said.

India wants its new aircraft carrier, being built locally, to use state-of-the-art US technology to boost the range and potency of a planned aircraft carrier.

Meanwhile, the two countries are in the process of setting up a new working group.  

The Pentagon recently appointed Rear Admiral Thomas Moore, who is associated with the naval aircraft carriers programme, to lead the US side of the joint working group. Kendall said the issue would now be addressed by the new working group.

Rear Admiral-select Surendra Ahuja, a former Indian test pilot, is representing India as joint head of the working group.

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