India cuts down American Boeing navy plane plan by 40%

File Photo: Indian Navy’s Boeing P8I aircraft.

New Delhi: Driven by budgetary constraints and the need for faster modernisation of the armed forces, India today cut down its purchase of Boeing Co. P8I aircraft by 40 per cent to just six, instead of the navy’s projected need for 10, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The cost of this six-plane procurement is said to be Rs 15,000 crore ($2 billion), instead of the Rs 22,000 crore ($3 billion) projected for the 10 P8I aircraft.

The Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh, accepted that the Indian Navy has a necessity for the six P8I Poseidon aircraft.

“The DAC approved the procurement of long range anti-submarine warfare P8I aircraft for the navy. These aircraft would greatly strengthen the navy’s capabilities for maritime coastal surveillance, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface vessel (ASV) strike,” it said.

In all, the DAC has approved four armed forces procurement programmes in its meeting and the total worth of these four capital acquisition proposals is Rs 22,800 crore (3.2 billion), according to a Ministry of Defence statement.

After this approval, the Indian Navy will initiate the process of contract negotiations with the Boeing Co., apart from the weapons package and the rest of the paraphernalia required for the anti-submarine warfare role of the fleet. The deal is expected to be done in 2020.

The Indian Navy has previous bought 12 of the P8I planes in two installments in 2009 (eight aircraft) for $2.1 billon and 2016 (four) for $1.1 billion. While the 2009 order has been fully delivered and the fleet is based in INS Rajali at Arakkonnam naval air base in Tamil Nadu, the southern-most province of India. The four-aircraft order will be delivered beginning 2021.

Airborne Warning and Control Systems

File Photo: India’s DRDO-developed AEW&C system integrated on an Embraer EMB-145 plane.

The DAC also agreed to re-validate the Indian Air Force’s procurement proposal for the indigenously developed Airborne Early Warning and Control India system, as a recognition of the ‘Make in India’ effort being carried out by the Bengaluru-based Centre for Air Borne Systems (CABS).

The ‘Acceptance of Necessity’ was extended for the acquisition project. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has designed, developed and integrated the mission system and the sub-systems on a Brazilian Embraer EMB-145 aircraft.

“These platforms would provide on-board Command and Control and ‘Early Warning’ which would assist the Indian Air Force (IAF) in achieving effective air space dominance in the least possible time. Induction of these systems would increase the extent of coverage along our borders and greatly enhance both the air defence and offensive capabilities of the IAF,” the defence ministry statement said.

Coast Guard Helicopters

The DAC also approved procurement of 14 Twin Engine Heavy Helicopters (TEHH) for the Indian Coast Guard for Rs 6,500 crore ($910.8 million) These aircraft would enable the coast guard to undertake missions to prevent maritime terrorism, infiltration of terrorists by sea routes as well as search and rescue operations.

A procurement programme conceived as a post-Mumbai terror strike coastal security enhancement efforts, the coast guard will now revive this procurement programme and go ahead with a global tender, inviting proposals from foreign helicopter manufacturers to supply these helicopters.

Thermal Sights for Assault Rifles

To boost the ‘Make in India’ initiative, the DAC accorded approval for indigenous design, development and manufacturing of ‘Thermal Imaging Night Sights’ for assault rifles, a proposal from the infantry directorate of the Indian Army.

These sights will be manufactured by the Indian private industry and used by troops deployed on the front line. ‘Thermal Imaging Night Sights’ would enable troops to undertake long range accurate engagements in dark and all-weather conditions thereby enhancing the night fighting capabilities.

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