P8I aircraft will give Indian Navy maritime patrol edge: Boeing

May 15th, 2008 - 10:34 am ICT by admin  

By Vishnu Makhijani
Renton (Washington State), May 15 (IANS) The Boeing P8I maritime patrol aircraft the Indian Navy is on the verge of acquiring in a $2.2 billion deal will give it a marked edge in the Indian Ocean region and one that is comparable to its US counterpart, the aircraft’s manufacturer says. “This will be the first time the Indian Navy will be able to operate a platform almost simultaneously with the US Navy,” Richard Buck, Boeing’s international programme manager for the P8, told a group of visiting Indian journalists at the company’s production facility here.

“Besides, India will be able to leverage on the substantial investment made in the P8 by the US Navy without having to pay for the development costs,” Buck said, adding that $4 billion had already been spent on the development of the aircraft.

The P8 is based on the hugely successful Boeing 737 commercial airliner and the first aircraft is currently under construction here. Its first flight will take place early in 2009 and the first of the 108 aircraft the US Navy has ordered will be delivered in the third quarter of 2009.

Negotiations are in an advanced stage for the purchase of eight P8Is for the Indian Navy. The contract, when signed, will be unique in that it will not be conducted under the US foreign military sales (FMS) programme but as a direct commercial agreement between The Boeing Company and the Indian Navy.

The Indian defence ministry is conducting the negotiations on behalf of the Indian Navy and the contract is likely to be inked in New Delhi later this year.

“Under the RFP (request for proposal) of the Indian Navy, the first aircraft has to be delivered within 48 months of the contract being signed and the remaining within an eight-year time frame,” Buck said.

The Indian Navy had, at one stage, contemplated leasing a few Lockheed Martin P3 Orion aircraft as an immediate replacement for its ageing fleet of Soviet-era Il-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft but dropped the idea in favour of the next generation P8I that has been customised for India.

“Let’s face it. The Orion’s a wonderful aircraft but its technology is 50 years old. With the P8I, we are offering is next generation technology that will keep the plane in service till 2050 at the least.

“Be it in an anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence gathering, surveillance or reconnaissance roles, the P8I combines superior performance and proven reliability against any other aircraft flying today,” Buck said.

Besides, there is commonality with the three Boeing Business Jets that the Indian Air Force has purchased “and there is, therefore, life cycle cost compatibility”, he added.

“To add to this, Boeing’s worldwide logistics, maintenance and training support facilities are already in place,” the official said.

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