India buys P-8I Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) Aircraft

10:05 GMT, January 5, 2009 NEW DELHI, DEFRO -- The Times of India yesterday revealed that the the Indian government has bought eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft for use by the Indian Navy, marking the biggest-ever defence deal with the United States worth $2.1 billion.

The P-8I is a derivative of the P8A designed specifically for the unique, exacting requirements of the Indian Navy.

Though unconfirmed, reports suggest that the deal may have been signed on January 1, with defence ministry's joint secretary and acquisitions manager (maritime systems) Preeti Sudan and Boeing integrated defence systems vice-president and country head Vivek Lall signing the contract, The Times of India said.

But, strangely enough, the defence ministry is keeping the deal under wraps. Incidentally, the previous NDA regime had also signed a flurry of mega defence deals -- like the $1.5 billion one for Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and $1.1 billion one for three Israeli ‘Phalcon' AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) -- in the run-up to the April-May 2004 general elections.

Sources said the P-8I contract was "a direct commercial agreement with Boeing", with "some issues of end-use verification yet to be fully sorted out" with the US government.

In terms of the contract size, the P-8I deal supplants the $962 million deal signed with US in 2007 for six C-130J `Super Hercules' aircraft for Indian special forces.

C-130J Super Hercules (Photo @LockheedMartin)

The Times of India suggest that the country will get the first P-8I towards end-2012 or early-2013, with the other seven following in a phased manner by 2015-2016. The contract may also provide an option for India to order four to eight more such planes.

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