India Gets Classified PAC-3 Briefing

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Senior Pentagon officials gave a classified briefing on the Patriot-3 (PAC-3) anti-missile system to senior personnel of the Indian Air Force, Navy and Defence Ministry here Sept. 9, a move that shows Indo-U.S. defense ties are growing in the wake of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s July visit to Washington.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, who directs the Pentagon’s Security Cooperation Agency and led the delegation, said U.S. officials are not pressing India to buy Patriots but would like to hear what kind of missile defenses India wants .

No further details were made available on the classified PAC-3 briefing .

Kohler said the briefing is part of the Next Step in Strategic Partnership, a nine-month-old effort to narrow the two countries’ differences over non proliferation, encourage cooperation in missile defense and facilitate the flow of U.S. technologies to India — particularly in civilian nuclear and space programs .

India’s official willingness to cooperate on missile defense dates from May 2002, under the previous National Democratic Alliance government . New Delhi asked about the PAC-3 system during an August 2003 meeting of the Indo-U.S. Joint Defense Policy Group in Washington, a Defence Ministry source said. India received a similar classified briefing on the Patriot-2 system in February .

Indian Defence Ministry sources said Russia is pressuring India to forgo U.S. anti-missile systems. Russian officials have said they will not provide the source code to allow the PAC-3 to be integrated with India’s existing Russian-made systems .

Senior Pentagon personnel also briefed officials here on the F-16 and F-18 fighter jets and the P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. India is looking to buy 126 multirole medium-range combat aircraft under a $6 billion program dubbed MRCA.

Sources said teams from Boeing and Lockheed Martin met separately with Indian Air Force officials to discuss their aircraft.