The Indian Government has cleared a potential procurement of Boeing-built P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft as part of a wider spending plan to boost the country’s defence capabilities.
The purchase of additional Boeing P-8I maritime patrol aircraft for the Indian navy has received government approval – but only six aircraft are now planned to be acquired, instead of the 10 originally planned.
The Indian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) decision-making body on matters related to procurement, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), has approved the purchase of defence equipment valued as much as Rs228bn ($3.18bn).
The approval sets the stage for the Indian Navy to acquire additional P-8I aircraft that can be used for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
The 39.47m-long P-8I is the Indian variant of the P-8A Poseidon, which is based on the Next-Generation 737-800 platform.
A fleet of eight P-8Is is currently operational with the navy. These were acquired under a $2.14 billion Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract signed in January 2009. Options for four more were taken in July 2016, in a deal worth approximately $1 billion, with deliveries due between July 2020 and December 2021.
The company is expected to deliver a further four P-8I aircraft by 2021-22. The number of aircraft approved for acquisition by the DAC on 28 November has not been disclosed.
Chaired by Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the body also greenlighted the acquisition of Twin-Engine Heavy Helicopters (TEHH) for the Indian Coast Guard.
The aircraft is intended to support the coast guard in tackling maritime terrorism and conducting search and rescue operations.
In a report placed before parliament in August 2018, the Indian national audit agency said: “The critical role equipment offered by Boeing were not fully meeting the needs of the Indian navy. Owing to capability limitations of radars installed, the aircraft is not able to achieve the envisaged coverage area requirements.”
The report also stated that the P-8I’s anti-submarine warfare capability could only be partially fulfilled, as a contract for required weapons had not been concluded as of September 2017.
India’s navy also currently operates upgraded Il-38SD maritime surveillance aircraft, which were first inducted in 1977. The five-strong fleet is slated for retirement from 2025.