Current Affairs

US approves possible FMS of 6 ‘P-8I Maritime Patrol Aircraft’ to India

  • Posted By
  • Categories
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    5th May, 2021
  • Context

    The United States' State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to India of 6 P-8I Neptune Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) and related equipment for an estimated cost of $2.42 billion.

  • Background

    • In April this year, the Government of India has requested to buy
      • six (6) P-8I Patrol aircraft
      • eight (8) Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Joint Tactical Radio Systems 5 (MIDS-JTRS 5) (6 installed, 2 spares)
      • forty-two (42) AN/AAR-54 Missile Warning Sensors (36 installed, 6 spares)
      • fourteen (14) LN-251 with Embedded Global Positioning Systems (GPS)/Inertial Navigations Systems (EGIs) (12 installed, 2 spares)
    • Also included are CFM56-7 commercial engines; Tactical Open Mission Software (ITOMS) variant for P-8I; Electro-Optical (EO) and Infrared (IR) MX-20HD; and other elements.
    • The total estimated program cost is $2.42 billion.
  • Analysis

    What is P-8I?

    • The P-8A is a long-range multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations.
    • It is militarized with maritime weapons, a modern open mission system architecture, and commercial-like support for affordability.
    • A military derivative of the Boeing Commercial Next-Generation 737 airplane, the P-8A combines superior performance and reliability with an advanced mission system that ensures maximum interoperability in the battle space.
  • What are the modifications in P-8I?

    • The P-8I is a customized export variant of the P-8A featuring specific equipments for the Indian Navy.
    • Two major components not fitted on the P-8A are a Telephonics APS-143 OceanEye aft radar and a magnetic anomaly detector (MAD).
    • The aircraft has been modified to include a bomb bay and pylons for weapons – two weapons stations on each wing – and can carry 129 sonobuoys.
    • The aircraft is also fitted with an in-flight refueling system.
    • With more than 180,000 flight hours to date, P-8 variants, the P-8A Poseidon and the P-8I, patrol the globe performing anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; humanitarian; and search and rescue missions.
  • How P-8I entered India?

    • The Indian Navy procured eight P-8I aircraft from Boeing in January 2009, and contracted for an additional four aircraft in July 2016. 
    • The first P-8I aircraft were delivered to the Indian Navy in 2013, providing interoperability and critical capabilities to coalition maritime operations. 
    • India has received eight of the P-8I variant to date with four more in production to be delivered from April 2020. It intends to procure six more aircraft.
    • The United States last year approved an FMSof Harpoon anti-ship missiles and MK 54 lightweight torpedoes for the P-8Is of the Indian Navy.
  • India-US Defence Deal

    • Defense purchases from the United States have been increasingly an integral part of growing ties between the two countries.
    • From near zero in 2008, India-US defence trade touched $20 billion in 2020, helped along by major policy upgrades. 
    • In 2016, the US recognised India as a Major Defence Partner (MDP) to liberalise transfers of arms and technologies to it.
    • The US also conducts more military exercises with India than with any other country.

    Three Important Agreements

    • BECA: The Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement largely pertains to geospatial intelligence, and sharing information on maps and satellite images for defence.
    • LEMOA: The Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement was signed between India and the US in August 2016. It allows the military of each country to replenish from the other’s bases: access supplies, spare parts and services from the other country’s land facilities, air bases, and ports, which can then be reimbursed. 
    • COMCASA: The Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement was signed in September 2018. It allows the US to provide India with its encrypted communications equipment and systems so that Indian and US military commanders, aircraft and ships can communicate through secure networks in peace and war.
  • How will it help India?

    • Expansion of marine capabilities: This proposed sale of an additional six P-8I aircraft will allow the Indian Navy to expand its maritime surveillance aircraft (MSA) capability for the next 30 years.  India will have no difficulty absorbing these aircraft into its armed forces.
  • International Customers

    • The United Kingdom is one of six international customers for the P-8A Poseidon. The first British Poseidon MRA Mk1 was delivered in 2019.
    • The U.S. Navy is on contract to receive 128.
    • As a cooperative partner with the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Program Office, Australia began receiving their P-8A aircraft in 2016 with eight delivered and four more in production.
      • Norway will begin receiving their five P-8As in 2022
      • Both New Zealand and South Korea have signed agreements with the U.S. Navy to purchase four and six aircraft respectively.
  • Conclusion

    This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to strengthen the US-Indian strategic relationship and to improve the security of a major defensive partner, which continues to be an important force for political stability, peace, and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific and South Asia region.