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Indian Navy Maritime Reconnaissance

In February 2001 it was reported that Russia was preparing to lease India four TU-22M3 Backfire long-range bombers armed with the KH-22 cruise missiles having a range of 500 km. There were also reports that the Tu-22M3 offered to India for the maritime attack role would be armed with the conventional anti-ship Kh-15A (export designation Kh-15S) missile. The Backfire has a combat of 2,400 km, though the bomber could be upgraded with mid-air refueling to extend the range to 5,000 km.

The Indian Navy spent in excess of $500 million to upgrade its fleet of eight Russian Tu-142 F maritime reconnaissance strike aircraft. As of 2002 a new plan called for modernizing the aircraft to operate anti-ship missiles, advanced navigation equipment and electronic warfare systems to create a link between India's nuclear command center and its nuclear submarines. The upgraded aircraft would be dubbed the Tu-142J.

The Indian Navy's eight Tu-142M long-range maritime reconnaissance/ASW aircraft have all been fitted with ELTA-supplied EL/M-2022(V)3 multi-mode search radars. The last two of the eight aircraft were declared operational with the new belly-mounted radars in December 2008 and as a result, these eight platforms will remain in operation until at least 2016. However, by 2018 it will become cost-prohibitive for the Tu-142M to remain flightworthy. The program to upgrade its eight Tu-142Ms by Russia fell through in 2004 due to an estimated cost of US$888 million.

Russia's Taganrogskaya Aviatsiya (TAVIA) has created an updated Tu-142M, designated the Tu-142MSD. This service life-extension package could result in a reduction of the Tu-142M's direct operating costs, along with re-lifing the airframe and a re-engining package that included new-generation propellers, and a glass cockpit, such upgraded Tu-142M could remain in service until around 2026.

India's need for Maritime Surveillance Aircraft intensified on 02 October 2002 when two IL-38s, which is a combination of Il-18 airliner and the IL-20 reconnaissance model, crashed during a demonstration. After their overhaul in 1996, the two IL-38s had been expected to remain in service until 2015. The crash reduced India's Maritime surveillance fleet to three Il-38s and eight Tu-142s. By 2007 the Il-38 fleeet was expected to remain in service through the year 2020.

In November 2006 the Indian Navy expressed an interest in the Boeing P-8 Poseidon Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft (MMA), which is a modified Boeing 737-800ERX, as a replacement for its existing fleet of IL-38 aircraft that were nearing the end of their service life. By August 2007 India had completed evaluations of a maritime patrol derivative of the Airbus A319 and the Boeing P-8 Poseidon in support of the Navy requirement for eight anti-submarine aircraft. Other bidders for the deal were Israel Aerospace Industries and Elta Systems with a Dassault Falcon 900 business jet derivative, Lockheed Martin with a remanufactured P-3 Orion, and a Russian consortium with the Ilyushin Il-38. As neither the P-8 nor the A319 derivative actually existed at that time, the flight trials conducted in the US and Spain involved simulations, flying leased commercial Boeing 737 and A320 family aircraft on representative flight profiles, and mission system evaluations using US Navy and Spanish air force P-3s. EADS Casa is offering its FITS mission system, which had been installed in Spain's upgraded P-3Bs.

By November 2007 the Ministry of Defence had shortlisted two competitors - Boeing's P-8 and the Airbus Industrie A319. By the end of 2008 India was poised to conclude its biggest-ever defense deal with US: the around Rs 8,500-crore contract for the supply of eight Boeing P-8I Long-Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft for the Navy. Virtually all the steps required for the contract to be signed, including tabling of it in the Cabinet Committee on Security for approval, had been completed. On 01 January 2009 the UPA government signed the biggest-ever defence deal with US: a $2.1 billion contract for eight Boeing P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft for the Navy. The deal was signed by Preeti Sudan, Indian Defence Ministry's Joint Secretary and and Boeing integrated defence systems vice-president and country head Vivek Lall.

India is the first international customer for the P-8. The first of the LRMR aircraft will be delivered within four years of the contract being actually signed, with the rest being handed over by 2015. India 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 LRMR planes will replace the eight ageing and fuel-guzzling Russian-origin Tupolev-142Ms.

Customised for India and based on the Boeing 737 commercial airliner, the radar-packed P-8I aircraft will go a long way in plugging the huge gaps in Navy's maritime monitoring capabilities with a range of over 600 nautical miles. The P-8 is a modification of the P-8A Poseidon Multi-Mission Maritime Aircraft currently being developed for US Navy. It is a tailored version for the Indian Navy. The aircraft will bolster Indian Navy's maritime patrolling capabilities and extend its reach upto 600 nautical miles. It is fitted with weapons like torpedoes, depth bombs and anti-ship missiles.

By mid-2006 the Navy planned to shortly replace its Islander fleet with 11 new HAL-built Dornier aircraft. As of mid-2007 the Indian Navy (IN) had around 13 remaining Britten-Norman BN-2 Islanders it acquired around 1976. At that time the IN was in the process of transferring two BN-2 'Defender' Islander maritime surveillance aircraft to Myanmar, an add-on to the pair it had supplied in August 2006. The BN-2 "Defender" Islander airplanes was stripped of all weapons and used solely for relief and humanitarian missions.

By mid-2008 eight of the 11 more Dornier-228s, ordered for Rs 726 crore to act as medium-range maritime reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft, had already joined the Navy.

Future requirements for the Navy called for the procurement of Medium-Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft that should also be capable of ASW, while the Coast Guard also requires MRMR aircraft, with no ASW capability. Aircraft proposed for the Navy's MRMR/ASW were the turboprop ATR-72MP & C-295MPA, and Dassault's Falcon 900MPA & Embraer's P-99A jet-powered platforms. For the Coast Guard the ATR-42MPA Surveyor and C-295 or CN-235MPA are being proposed.

In the wake the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, in a deal valued at $600 million, India purchased from Israel an aerostat radar system to help defend the country's coastline. The Indian Navy acquired two aerostat radars from Israel to fill vital gaps in the coastal security setup [the IAF already operated two aerostat radars and had ordered four more]. The new Navy radars will be deployed in strategic points to provide advance warning against incoming enemy aircraft and missiles. The EL/M-2083 Aerostat radars are a simpler version of the Green Pine radar, made by Israel Aerospace Industries, and used by the Arrow missile defence system. The phased-array radars are mounted on tethered aerstats, at a maximum altitude of 13000 feet, and are capable of detecting intrusions at longer range than ground based radar systems, providing 3-D coverage in a radius of 500 km.

In 2009 India sent a request for proposal for the purchase of eight Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft (MRA) to overseas vendors. The RFP to replace the Indian Navy's retiring fleet of eight Tupolev Tu-142s came after the Indian Navy turned down the US Navy's offer of leasing two P-3C Orions, because the 18-24 month retrofit would be too expensive. The Indian Navy engaged in exploratory talks with Boeing for involvement in the P-8A Poseidon (formerly known as Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft or MMA) program. Boeing is reportedly negotiating a direct commercial sale of eight P-8As to India to meet its requirement for an interim long-range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.

The IN was also reported to be interested in acquiring up to two more Il-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft. This acquisition is to bolster the now depleted fleet of Indian Navy maritime reconnaissance planes. The new planes to be purchased would be the upgraded version of the aircraft fitted with advanced Sea Dragons digital common patrol suites. New procurement was necessary as existing Indian Navy surveillance assets were deemed insufficient to monitor the country's vast 7,516 km coastline, 1,197 island territories and 2.01 million square kilometer Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Indian Navy recognized the superior persistence and surveillance capabilities of unmanned assets and has factored their induction. The Heron Unmanned Aerial Vehicle squadrons on the West Coast were fully operational by 2011 and a new squadron on the East Coast commissioned in 2012. The technological advancements on the unmanned platforms incorporating improved sensors would enhance the coverage of the Area of Operations and such features have been factored as future drivers of growth.

Indian Naval Aviation received a major fillip with the arrival of the first of eight Boeing P-8I Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance and Anti Submarine Warfare aircraft at Naval Air Station Rajali, Arakkonam, Tamil Nadu on 15 May 2013. Vice Admiral Bimal Verma, AVSM, Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command presided over the induction ceremony that was also attended by Commodore Puneet Bahl, Commanding Officer, INS Rajali, representatives from the Command and Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of defence (Navy).

The P-8I aircraft, based on the Boeing 737-800(NG) airframe, is the Indian Naval variant of the P-8A Poseidon of the US Navy. The aircraft is equipped with both foreign as well as indigenous sensors for Maritime Reconnaissance, Anti Submarine operations and for Electronic Intelligence missions. The aircraft is fully integrated with state of the art sensors and highly potent Anti Surface and Anti Submarine weapons. The IN was in process of acquiring an additional four P-8I aircraft. The induction of the P-8I aircraft into the Indian Navy would greatly enhance India’s maritime surveillance capability in the Indian Ocean Region. The planned induction of twelve P-8I Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to add more teeth to this capability.

Maritime surveillance capability is a critical component of maritime security, both in times of peace and conflict, and plays a crucial role in the security of the Maritime Zones of India, as also of the vast coastline. Acquisition of Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft is also being progressed concurrently. A Request For Information (RFI) has been sent out for eight aircraft, but entry into service will likely take place only after 2015. The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) request for medium range maritime reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft for the Indian Navy, requirement does not require for the aircraft to necessarily have anti-submarine capabilities but the aircraft should be capable of anti-surface vessel operations, even being equipped with some form of anti-ship missiles.

While Boeing has proposed a “simplified” variant of its P-8I Poseidon for the role, new aircraft under consideration include the AirTech CN-235MP/MPA Maritime Patrol Aircraft with the two manufacturers, CASA EADS in Spain and Dirgantra in Indonesia, proposing to supply the aircraft with different mission systems. The Spanish developed CN-235 MP Persuader is fitted with the Northrop Grumman APS-504 (V) 5 radar, the Indonesian developed CN-235 MPA with either the Seaspray 4000 from BAE Systems, the AN/APS-134 from Raytheon or the Ocean Master 100 from Thales.

In addition, the Indian Coast Guard’s requires six to nine aircraft of ‘medium’ category but with no offensive equipment. The RFI issued in 2010 announced a diverse range of missions including search and rescue, environmental monitoring, pollution control and medical evacuation.

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