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Indian Navy Re-initiates Stalled Programme To Buy 6 More P8I Aircraft From US

Fresh Letter of Offer and Acceptance sought from US Government, Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar tells Businessworld in an exclusive interview

Photo Credit : Indian Navy


The US declined to extend the validity of the initial offer beyond July 31 for additional P8I naval planes for the Indian Navy

The Indian Navy has re-initiated the programme to buy 6 more Boeing P8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft from the US under a multi-billion-dollar Government-to-Government deal which stalled after the expiry of the price offer on July 31.

“A restated Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) has been sought from USG (US Government),” Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar told Businessworld in an exclusive interview. 

This is the first public statement from the Indian Navy affirming that the P8I deal is still on the table. It also provides a clear indication that the decks have been cleared for fresh price negotiations for the procurement of additional numbers of this key force multiplier, which is a prominent symbol of India-US military cooperation.

“Based on the response from US side, the case would be progressed further for procurement under Buy Global route,” Admiral Hari Kumar stated. 

Under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process for Government-to-Government Defence deals, the Letter of Offer and Acceptance is issued by the US Government for signature after the conclusion of price negotiations with the buying country. It is akin to a contract document. 

The Indian Navy Chief’s statement indicates that the two sides will pick up the thread from where it was left on July 31, and that this procurement programme would not have to be run afresh. The re-negotiated price would first have to be cleared by India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister and then the case put up for final approval to the Cabinet Committee on Security chaired by the Prime Minister before the deal can be signed.

The stalling of the deal following the expiry of the initial price offer validity was first reported by Businessworld on August 1. It represented a setback to the Indian Navy’s plan to beef up its maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capability.

Several critical military procurements though the import route were either scrapped or put on a deferred list after India’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) policy reinforcement last year. Admiral Hari Kumar’s statement is an indication that the Indian Navy stood its ground on the import of the P8Is and was able to convince the political decision-makers about the necessity of these force multipliers representing a capability which cannot be indigenised in the near term. 

As reported by Businessworld earlier, the Indian Navy operates 12 P8Is, of which 8 are based at the naval airbase INS Rajali in Arakonam on the Eastern Seaboard and 4 at INS Hansa in Goa on the West. The additional P8Is are meant to augment numbers on the Western Seaboard. 

The induction of the P8I in 2013 has often been hailed as a game-changer for the Indian Navy’s long-range reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, giving it a clear edge over adversaries in the Indian Ocean Region. 

A big takeaway is the high availability rate of the P8I for missions, which is reported to be an impressive 85 per cent. This enables intense and sustained reconnaissance operations. 

“In the 9 years since 2013, the Indian Navy has done more flying on the P8I than it did on the Soviet-origin Tupolev-142 and Ilyushin-38 fleets combined for four decades,” informed sources pointed out. The Soviet-origin Tu-142 and the Il-38 were the backbones of the Indian Navy maritime reconnaissance operations before the induction of the American P8I.