India has taken a decision to acquire four more P-8I long-range maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft from Boeing Company. The P-81 aircraft are expected to be delivered after 2015. The P-8I aircraft, a variant of the P-8A Poseidon which Boeing is building for the US Navy, will augment Indian Navy’s maritime security capabilities.
The current order for four P-8I aircraft are in addition to the eight P-8I already ordered by India. India was the first international customer for the P-8I aircraft and the first of the eight aircraft will be delivered to the Indian Navy between 2013 and 2015. The first contract was signed in January 2009 for $ 2.2 billion and it was the largest U.S. arms sale to India till date and it included maintenance, training, supporting equipment and logistical support.
While the financial details of the additional four P-8I aircraft is not disclosed, it is assumed that it will be around $ 1 billion to $ 1.5 billion and the new contract price is also expected to include the cost of aero-structures and avionics. The P-8I aircraft is designed around the Boeing 737 airframe and can perform anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, maritime intervention, long range surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.
The P-8I will be a crucial asset for the Indian Navy in terms of strategic importance and maritime patrol activities. With growing sea piracy, Indian Navy is expected to play a decisive role in the Indian Ocean region. The growing presence of China is also making the Indian Navy more alert in that region besides policing the busy commercial route in Straits of Malacca where instances of piracy have occurred.
According to sources, Boeing has also submitted a reply to the Indian Navy’s Request for Information (RFI) for six medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft and it plans to offer a P-8I derivative for this. The current RFI 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. Besides, the aircraft must be capable of carrying at least two anti-ship missiles and a jamming pod and the vendor must integrate certain indigenous equipment like Identification Friend or Foe Interrogator with Secure Mode, MSS Terminal, BFE, Datalink and Speech Secrecy Equipment.
Meanwhile, Boeing also expects India to sign a final agreement in the next few months for the purchase of 10 C-17 Globemaster III airlifters. In addition, Boeing has also responded to India’s proposals from global companies to supply Indian Air Force (IAF) with 22 combat helicopters and 15 heavy-lift helicopters. Boeing submitted initial bids to the IAF offering the AH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter and the CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift, twin-rotor helicopter. Boeing is also one of the six companies worldwide in the race for India’s $10.2 billion Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) contract.
Boeing, alongside other US major aerospace firms, is eyeing the lucrative Indian defence market and is confident of efficiently delivering its aircraft to India with its rapid production approach. According to an estimate, India will acquire defence equipment worth $ 31 billion over the next decade and it is no surprise that global majors like Boeing are making a beeline towards India with their wares.