India’s cabinet on Monday cleared a more than $4.0-billion deal to buy military transport planes from aerospace giant Boeing in the biggest ever defense deal with an American firm, officials said.
The deal for the C-17 Globemaster III planes, used for transporting heavy equipment, was cleared at a meeting of the government’s cabinet committee on security affairs, a senior government official said.
The Indian defense ministry declined to comment but the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the cabinet gave its clearance to buy 10 C-17 aircraft.
He said the procurement would be done as a government-to-government sale instead of through commercial tendering.
The Press Trust of India news agency last month said the Indian air force was also planning to place an order for an additional six C-17s after finalizing the initial order for 10 aircraft.
The C-17 advanced airlifter can carry large combat equipment and troops or humanitarian aid across international distances to small airfields anywhere in the world, according to the company.
India’s technology-starved air force, the world’s fourth largest, wants to replace and augment its fleet of ageing Russian-built transport planes.
Monday’s approval came two months after New Delhi kicked out Boeing and Lockheed Martin from a race among six global aviation firms to sell 126 fighter jets worth almost $12 billion dollars to India.
India shortlisted Typhoon Eurofighter of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company and Rafale of French Dassault after removing Boeing, Lockheed, Russia’s MiG builders and Sweden’s Saab from the race for the war jet deal.
India in 2008 agreed to buy six Hercules C-130J transport planes from Lockheed for $962 million, then the country’s biggest ever military aircraft deal with the United States.
In January of the following year, India signed a $2.1 billion deal with Boeing to buy six maritime surveillance aircraft for its navy.
India, which in February boosted military spending to 1.65 trillion rupees ($36 billion) for the financial year to March 2012 from 1.47 trillion rupees the previous year, plans to buy hundreds of helicopters and other aircraft.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute think tank, India over the last five years was the world’s biggest importer of weapons.