US becomes India’s biggest arms supplier - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 24 February 2014

US becomes India’s biggest arms supplier

The rubber meets the road: US overtakes Russia as India imports $1.9 bn worth of US equipment in 2013

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th Feb 14

For over four decades, Russia has been India’s largest arms supplier by a comfortable margin. Last year, the United States overtook Russia to grab that spot.

According to the defence and security analysis group, IHS Jane’s, India has also supplanted Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest buyer of American weaponry. In 2013, India imported $1.9 billion worth of US equipment, including the C-17 Globemaster III and the P-8I multi-mission aircraft.

Defence equipment imports from the US have shot up from just $237 million in 2009, to 8 times that figure last year. And, with several high-value US contracts in the procurement pipeline --- including a $600-700 million purchase of 145 M777 guns; additional C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft; and a possible billion-dollar buy of 8,400 Javelin anti-tank missiles --- this is poised to rise even higher.

According to Indian analysts, the defence ministry in New Delhi is increasingly comfortable buying weaponry directly from the US department of defence (the Pentagon), partly because of the perception that this provides no space for corruption and arms agents. An increasing number of US contracts, such as those for C-17 aircraft and the M777 gun, are being routed through America’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme, in which the Pentagon negotiates the rates and supply schedule with the vendor, on behalf of the buyer.

In 2010, India had overtaken China as the world’s biggest importer of defence equipment, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Last year, total arms deliveries to India (as opposed to the value of contracts signed) touched $5.9 billion. Almost half of India’s $13.4 billion budget for equipment modernization was spent on foreign weaponry.

Saudi Arabia was in second place with $5.4 billion in arms imports.

For decades, India’s Russian-equipped military had continued their reliance on Russian spares, upgrades and maintenance. But now, a new generation of equipment is entering service with the Indian military, and Russia is winning only a limited share of those contracts.

According to IHS Jane’s, the US narrowly beat out Russia as the world’s biggest arms exporter in 2013. America exported $25.2 billion worth of defence equipment last year, compared to $24.9 billion exported by Russia.


  1. Sir, Is it your belief that MOD's "perception" of transactions through US DOD free of middlemen just a perception? Any reasons for believing so??

  2. Oh, great! Now watch the arm-twisting begin every time something happens that the US does not like in Indian policy. Pakistan already went through it with the F-16s. Now it's India's turn. Hopefully, indigenization will make some progress too although given that the US is not as generous in its spare parts and local production terms as the Russkies were, I think that's going to slow down too. Really need a diverse suppliers' group to offset potential blackmail and/or stoppage.


  3. You have always been an advocate of USA...don't know why! The US is equally responsible towards getting augusta westland deal cancelled...because they want to sell their sikorsky. Also there is a similar angle for delay and might be an eventual cancellation of deal for buying Rafale...and this will be due to lobbying by US...towards pushing F35...joint striker...single engine jet!

    And all this because the MoD wants to eat the dope directly and wants no intermediary from the army to take benefit of it! Graft and Government are synonymous to each other!

  4. Any idea how many of them were bought by changing the required specification to old Mil standards. It is well know that C130 and Hercules are just shells and old technology has been dumped on us.

  5. The effect this is going to have on Indo American relations,with both parties having acquired the dubious distinction of being "the highest" something or the other,remains to be seen. It kind of also explains in some obscure way the "tilting at windmills" stand Indid took on the Khobragade case and Nancy Powell's knock on Modi's door.


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