Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Battle over the High Seas for Indian Surveillance Requirement


Aero India

Defense News

Battle over the High Seas for Indian Surveillance Requirement


After years of negotiations over its future maritime patrol aircraft, the Indian Navy has decided neither the Lockheed P-3C Orion nor the Ilyushin Il-38 are advanced enough to meet its needs, a senior Indian Navy official said last month.

Instead, Navy officials are inviting Boeing’s P-8I and EADS CASA’s Airbus A319 to be tested in a still-open 2005 tender for eight aircraft to replace aging P-3s. A decision is expect by year’s end.

The tender, whose value is estimated at $800 million, seeks an aircraft that can serve for 25 years; endure a year-long trial period; fly for eight hours without refueling; hunt submarines; and carry mines, torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

France’s Dassault also bid last April, but was not selected for further study.

The P-8, which is being built for the U.S. Navy, is a variant of the 737-800. India is being offered the P-8I, the first variant offered internationally, said Tim Norgart, director of business development, Airborne, Anti-Submarine Warfare & Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Systems. The P-8I has a range of 4,800 nautical miles, or double that with aerial refueling, Norgart said.

The EADS CASA entrant has a 2,000-nautical-mile range and cannot be refueled in the air, said Fernando Ciria, head of marketing, EADS CASA Mission Aircraft.

“We convert the A319 with sonar launchers, bomb bay, missile sensors, radar, [infrared sensors]. This is the first time EADS has modified an A319 for this purpose,” Ciria said.

The plane would get the Fully Integrated Tactical System, which is in use on the EADS CASA C-295, C-212, CN-235 and P-3 Orion.

Ciria said offset arrangements may give the edge to EADS.

“The first prototypes will be built in Spain and remainder built in India. We are doing a survey of local industries for the offset of the remaining eight,” said Ciria.

Boeing is in discussions about offsets, but nothing has been agreed to at this point, said Norgart. “Discussions on incorporating the Indian equipment is still ongoing,” he said.

Boeing may not be able to provide an actual P-8I aircraft in time for this year’s trials; Norgart said the company may send a “representative aircraft” instead. He said the P-8A aircraft for the U.S. Navy is at the critical review stage in March, with operational capability beginning in 2013.