Sunday, October 17, 2010

India to Buy 4 More P-8Is, Amphibious Ships

In a strong booster dose to India's maritime reconnaissance and strategic sea-lift capabilities, the defence ministry has cleared the acquisition of four long-range surveillance aircraft and four big amphibious assault warships for the Navy.

MoD sources say the two big naval projects, whose cumulative worth is Rs 20,600 crore, [approx. $4.6 billion—Ed.] were cleared by the defence acquisitions council, chaired by A K Antony, on Monday afternoon.

The four new aircraft will be the P-8I Poseidon long-range maritime patrol aircraft, which will add to the eight such planes already contracted from Boeing under the $2.1-billion deal inked in January 2009. It will take this biggest-ever Indo-US defence deal till date past the $3-billion mark, making it even bigger, as was first reported by TOI last month.

The entire project to acquire the four amphibious warfare ships, called Landing Platform Docks (LPDs) in naval lingo, will be worth around Rs 16,000 crore.

The LPD project will be executed under the "buy and make" category of the Defence Procurement Procedure, which basically involves licensed indigenous manufacture in collaboration with a foreign manufacturer.

"At least two of the LPDs will be constructed at Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) at Visakhapatnam, which was transferred from the shipping ministry to the defence ministry last year to meet national security requirements of building strategic vessels," said a source.

Both the P-8Is and the LPDs are crucial to the Navy's long-term strategic plans. The 12 P-8I aircraft, the first of which is slated for induction by early 2013, will help India plug the existing gaps in its surveillance of the entire Indian Ocean Region.

Armed with torpedoes, depth bombs and Harpoon missiles, apart from being packed with long-range radars and sensors, the P-8Is will also boost its anti-warship and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

The LPDs will significantly augment Navy's capacity to transport infantry battalions, with all their equipment, over long distances and land them on foreign shores. Apart from bolstering India's "blue-water capabilities", they can also be deployed for disaster relief operations to evacuate people or transport material.

The Navy learnt the worth of large LPDs with the 2007 induction of the second-hand 16,900-tonne USS Trenton, rechristened INS Jalashwa, acquired from the US along with its six on-board UH-3H helicopters and four landing craft for $92.5 million.

The 173-metre-long INS Jalashwa can be gauged from the fact it's the second-largest Indian warship after the 28,000-tonne aircraft carrier INS Viraat.

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