Even as Washington’s offer of a P-3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft hangs fire, the Navy has expressed interest in Boeing-737 P-8A multi-mission maritime aircraft — the jet that Boeing is developing to replace the ageing P-3C Orion platform.
Top Naval officials told Express that the Navy’s interest has already been communicated and the Pentagon would possibly provide an answer through Defence Security Cooperation Group (DSCG) chief Lt Gen Jeffrey B. Kohler.
The P-8A is the only military product India has expressed interest in, which even the US doesn’t possess yet — it will be fully operational and delivered to the US Navy only by 2013. In fact, the P-8A was cleared by a US technical review board to proceed into the design phase just five days ago.
Almost all other defence products Washington has so far offered to New Delhi will either shortly be phased out or face possible budgetary cuts. For example, the F-16 Falcon which is now competing for a 126 aircraft order from the IAF, will slowly be phased out when the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter becomes operational by 2008. The US has offered India the Patriot-2 anti-missile defence system but itself uses the newer generation Patriot-3.
The P-8A matches the operational profile jointly mandated to the Indian Navy’s Tupolev-142 long-range reconnaissance planes and Ilyushin-38 maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. Washington’s offer for at least 12 P-3C Orions would match the same profile, though the P-8A will have superior intelligence gathering equipment and ASW capabilities.
The Indian Express reported on April 3 that the Force’s maritime surveillance and ASW capabilities were stagnating due to lack of funds and quick government decisions. Navy sources hinted that the decision to buy 50 civil jets, worth over $6 billion, for Air India from Boeing could just soften them for a favourable response.
The US has so far kept its drawing board weapon systems to itself, sharing them only with some of its NATO allies. The P-8A undergoes a preliminary design review in September. It will be built by Boeing’s Integrated Defence Systems division, CFM International, Northrop Grumman (whose offer of the E-2C Hawkeye 2000 Naval AWACS plane fell through), Raytheon and Smiths Aerospace. Dip in infiltration due to India: Defence report
NEW DELHI: Despite an atmosphere of Indo-Pak goodwill, sustained threats to peace continued to rise from ‘‘the fundamentalism and terrorism nurtured in madarsas and training camps in the region and the danger of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and access to them by fundamentalists and terrorists’’. This is the note on which the Ministry of Defence ended its annual report for 2004-05.
Partly debunking perceptions over Pakistan’s contribution to the reduced infiltration, the report states: ‘‘While there was some decline in the level of infiltration, this was more on account of measures on the part of the Indian armed forces than any discernible change of heart or action by Pakistani authorities.’’