Eleven overseas companies are vying to sell the Indian Defense Ministry two maritime surveillance aircraft for $27.7 million in response to a global tender the government floated in September, a ministry official said.
French companies ATR and Dassault Aviation, Spain’s CASA, , Sweden’s SAAB, Brazil’s Embraer, Ukraine’s Antonov, Russia’s Ilyushin Aviation, Germany’s Dornier, Canada’s Bombardier and U.S. firm Lockheed Martin have submitted proposals, along with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The Defence Ministry is reviewing the technology of the offers, the ministry official said.
In the past, it has taken India up to 10 years to complete defense acquisitions, due to bureaucratic red tape. But the Defence Ministry official said the maritime surveillance aircraft purchase will be completed within a year.
Detailing Navy and Coast Guard requirements, the official said the twin-engine plane and its sub-systems should be tropical-weather worthy. Other essential parameters specify that the aircraft should have:
• Short takeoff and landing.
• A patrol speed of 180 to 405 kilometers per hour.
• Internal and external fuel storage.
• A range of up to 2,000 nautical miles or a minimum of eight hours.
• Ability to drop paratroops.
• 360-degree radar and day-and-night capabilities.
The aircraft’s primary role will be maritime surveillance, sea searches and rescues, casualty evacuation, pollution detection, control and response, fisheries control, offshore security, communications and logistics, and command and control. They also will be used to monitor sea trade routes. Eight percent of India’s trade is conducted by sea.
The planes must be capable of surveillance from India’s western state of Gujarat to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia, a senior Indian Coast Guard official said. It also is important for the aircraft to fly low-altitude reconnaissance for long periods.
The Navy’s current fleet of aging maritime surveillance aircraft is inadequate to monitor India’s more than 2.5 million-kilometer coastline. The Coast Guard has no long-range maritime surveillance aircraft.
It is because of this current weakness that India is having its three remaining Il-38 anti-submarine warfare maritime surveillance aircraft upgraded in Russia. The work will include installation of the new Sea Dragon mission system being developed by Ilyushin Design Bureau, Moscow.
The upgrade of India’s eight aging Russian-built Tu-142 maritime surveillance aircraft are in limbo following the Navy’s rejection of a Russian bid to perform the work. Russia has refused to permit India to have the planes upgraded for a lower price in Israel.