In the international race to court export weapons to India, the U.S. lags compared with longtime trading partners Russia and Israel.

The U.S. has made up some ground—the U.S. India Business Council estimates military trade between the two nations has gone from nearly nonexistent to more than $14 billion in the last dozen years. And to build on that success, U.S. companies are eager to pursue tighter partnerships with India, which is shifting its emphasis from weapon imports to deals that can help it develop a domestic manufacturing base.

The U.S. Defense Department has sought to help American companies through its Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), culminating in a trip last fall by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. During the visit, Carter discussed offers by U.S. companies for co-development and co-production of five weapons, including a maritime helicopter, a naval gun, a surface-to-air missile system and an anti-tank system.

Many U.S. industry officials at the recent DefExpo conference in New Delhi generally do not see 2014, an election year in India, as a year of weapons procurement, but rather as a year to build industrial relationships for future deals.

William Blair, president of Raytheon Asia, says the DTTI is helping to make the shift from India's effort to “buy global” to a “buy-and-make” approach. On that front, with the Pentagon's help, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin are offering India the chance to buy the Javelin anti-tank missile and develop upgrades that can in turn be exported to other countries.

Raytheon is offering India the same kind of co-development and production option for the Hawk XXI surface-to-air missile. Different elements of the system can be co-produced or co-developed in India, says Tim Glaeser, Raytheon vice president for integrated air and missile defense. For example, 50% of surveillance radars can be built in India, and launching stations could be built entirely in the country.

Glaeser met with Avinash Chander, director of India's Defense Research and Development Organization, and other Indian officials who have invited the company back for a 6-8-hr. technical discussion. “We are looking forward to coming back, hopefully before the end of March, and [taking] the next steps to move this kind of capability closer to reality for India,” Glaeser says.

But Chander stresses to the media that the procurement process is ongoing, specifically with regard to the army's short-range surface-to-air missile program, for which a request for proposals was issued two years ago.

Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin are both positioning to sell the MH-60R helicopter to India for its navy helicopter competition, with Sikorsky providing the airframe and Lockheed the systems integration. In addition to being part of Carter's DTTI initiative, both companies operate joint ventures with India's Tata Advanced Systems.

In 2009, Sikorsky established a joint venture with Tata to make cabins for the civil version of the S-92 helicopter. Last October. The facility in Hyderabad began producing cabins that are 100% indigenized, says Arvind Jeet Singh Walia, Sikorsky's India and South Asia regional executive. The plant produces S-92 cabin parts and assembles the cabin before shipping it to the U.S. for completion and delivery. “That's a big step,” says Walia, a former Indian air force vice marshal.

Lockheed's joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems is producing center wingboxes for C-130 aircraft.

Boeing may be an exception among U.S. companies in that it is still expecting to finalize deals for major aircraft this year. That includes finally completing the sale of 15 heavy-lift CH-47 Chinook and 22 AH-64E Apache helicopters and finalizing an option to India's existing P-8 contract for four additional maritime patrol aircraft.

Beyond aircraft orders, Boeing's focus remains support and training activities, says Dennis Swanson, vice president for defense, space and security in India. While the company already has a C-17 support agreement with India, deals for other platforms are “still in development,” he says. “We're early in those discussions to find the indigenous suppliers who can supply spare parts [and] fix components that might need testing.”

Boeing also is gaining a boost from its subcontractors. For instance, Rockwell Collins's Hyderabad engineering design center employs about 600 people who work on both commercial and defense projects, including designing avionics software for Boeing's 787.

“The offset piece was in place before we ever signed the contract,” says Douglas Schoen, director of sales and marketing for Rockwell Collins Southeast Asia.