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India signs deal with US for long-range maritime aircraft

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Boeing P-8i long-range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft. Boeing image

NEW DELHI (PTI): In its largest defence purchase ever from the US, India has signed a deal to buy eight maritime aircraft from aerospace major Boeing to strengthen the Navy’s intelligence gathering capabilities.

The USD 2.1 billion contract for eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft was signed between a Defence Ministry official and Boeing's country head Vivek Lall here on January 1, Navy and industry sources said here today.

The government had approved the deal in its last Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) meeting in 2008 after protracted talks.

The deal with Boeing, sources said, was through a direct commercial contract and issues such as end-user verification agreement between India and US for these defence products were still pending, sources said.

The Navy will get its first aircraft under the deal by 2012-13 and the rest of the aircraft would be delivered in phases by 2015-16, sources said.

The contract also provided for the Navy to place follow-on orders for about eight more of these aircraft, being purchased to replace the existing fleet of eight ageing Tupolev-142M turboprops.

The P-8I is armed with torpedoes, depth bombs and Harpoon anti-ship missiles and is capable of anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare.

Expected to help in plugging the existing gaps in Navy's maritime reconnaissance capabilities, the aircraft has an operating range of over 600 nautical miles.

Customised to meet Indian Navy's needs and based on the Boeing 737 commercial airliner, the P-8I aircraft is a variant of the P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft under development for the US Navy to replace its P-3C Orion fleet.

Interestingly, the P8I deal would be the largest deal India signed with the US, after the USD 962 million deals signed in 2007 for six Lockheed Martin' C-130J ' & 'Super Hercules' transport aircraft for its special forces.

Its purchase would greatly help inter-operability and supportability objectives of both the Indian and US Navies, according to a Boeing official here.

Apart from the Tu-142Ms, the Indian Navy currently uses IL-38SDs and Dorniers for surveillance operations in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

It was also looking for six advanced medium-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft at a budget of Rs 1,600 crore to further boost its patrol and intelligence gathering capabilities in the IOR.

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