boost its maritime patrol capabilities as well as counter piracy
threats and to Counter the growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.
In a deal expected to range between $1 billion to $1.5 billion, the new
aircraft will be in addition to the eight the Navy had ordered in
January 2009, for about $2.1 billion. The new contract price is also
expected to include the cost of aero-structures and avionics.
“The Indian Navy has received the necessary government approvals and has
decided to go ahead with the contractual processes to acquire four
additional P-8I aircraft under the options clause,” Commander PVS
Satish, public relations officer for the Indian Navy Said.
According to sources, Boeing has already submitted its draft offset
contract to the defence ministry last week. “The government is
considering exercising the option of adding four P-8I aircraft,” Dr
Vivek Lall, vice-president, Boeing Defence, Space & Security told
ET. The P-8I, which is based on the Boeing next-generation 737
commercial airplane, is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon that the defence
vendor Boeing is developing for the US Navy. India is the first
international customer for the P-8 platform.
The first of the eight P-8I aircraft, which were bought through the
direct commercial sales route with Boeing, are expected to be delivered
to India within 48 months of the original contract signing. The aircraft
are of supreme strategic importance for India’s naval forces, with the
country looking to enhance its role in the high seas.
Further, the global community has been clamouring for India to play a
more dominant policing role against sea piracy in the Straits of
Malacca, which is one of the busiest commercial and military sea-routes
in the world, and along the East African coast.
Also, in the ongoing scramble for sea power in the world’s thirdlargest
ocean, India has been desperate to stop what it perceives as a growing
Chinese hegemony in the region. Separately, Boeing has also submitted a
reply to the Navy’s Request for Information for six medium-range
maritime reconnaissance aircraft as well.
However, ministry sources did not confirm whether any of the other global defence vendors had responded to the same.
Others expected to be in the running for the contract include Russia’s
Ilyushin, France’s Dassault and EADS . Like most defence deals pursued
in India, the acquisition of the MRMR aircraft has followed a long and
tortuous route. With the original global Request for Procurement issued
in 2008, before the Mumbai attacks, the same was later scrapped by the
defence ministry on certain technical grounds.
The current RFI also specifies the aircraft should be able to carry out
electronic intelligence gathering and counter-measures, besides maritime
patrol and search and rescue within an operational envelope of 350
nautical miles or almost 650 kilometres, as well as a patrol endurance
of at least three and a half hours.
There are additional requirements that the aircraft be capable of
carrying at least two anti-ship missiles and a jamming pod. As with the
P-8I, the navy has specified in the RFI that certain pieces of equipment
must be indigenous, like Identification Friend or Foe Interrogator with
Secure Mode, MSS Terminal, BFE, Datalink and Speech Secrecy Equipment
and vendors must indicate their commitment to integrate this equipment
into the aircraft.