Decks being cleared for buying 10 more P-8I Poseidon naval snoop planes to counter-balance multiple big ticket defence deals with Russia.
India is clearing the decks for the purchase of a fresh lot of 10 P-8I Poseidon naval snoop planes amidst a stack of defence deals with the US worth an estimated $10 Billion.
This move is being seen as counter-balancing India's multiple big ticket defence deals with Russia which have riled the US and caused it to threaten sanctions under the CAATSA legislation. This also address the American constituency in the wake of India's removal from the General System of Preferences which enables tariff-free exports for many Indian products.
The case for acquiring 10 more Poseidon Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance (LRMR) aircraft for a reported $ 3 Billion gained momentum last week after a go-ahead from a procurements committee of the Ministry of Defence.
The case will now be put up for approval to the Defence Acquisition Council headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Reports suggested that this will be done by August, following which a Letter of Request will be sent to the US to process a deal under the Foreign Military Sales Route (FMS).
Reports also suggest that a concurrent tri-service proposal to acquire 30 Predator-B hunter-killer drones from the US is also being sent to the Defence Acquisition Council for approval. This deal is slated to be worth $2.5 Billion
"While the Indian Navy's requirement for additional Poseidon aircraft is a long-standing one, the processing of the acquisition in urgent fashion in the early days of Prime Minister Modi's second term is meant to send a placatory message to the US which is targetting India's $5.43 Billion S-400 Triumf missile defence deal with Russia," a keen observer inferred.
"The Indian Navy regards the P-8I Poseidon as the most significant airborne capability it has wielded ever, and is keen to expand this capability," an informed source told SP's. India already operates 8 Poseidons. The initial lot of 8 was contracted in 2009 for $2.1 Billion. The follow-on order for 4 was placed in 2016 for $1.1 Billion. The delivery of the second lot is expected to be completed in 2021-22. These aircraft have significant anti-submarine warfare capability, and are armed with MK-54 lightweight torpedoes besides Harpoon Block-II missiles.
The fresh lot of 10 is expected to be more advanced than the earlier 12 ordered by India.
Reports also suggest that a concurrent tri-service proposal to acquire 30 Predator-B hunter-killer drones from the US is also being sent to the Defence Acquisition Council for approval. This deal is slated to be worth $2.5 Billion.
A $2.6 Billion deal for 24 MH-60R naval multi-role helicopters is also in an advanced stage of process. Other India-US arms deals in the works include the $1 Billion National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System-II as an element of a multi-tiered missile shield over the National Capital, and the six follow-on Apache attack helicopters for an approximate $930 Million.
The US has made big inroads into India's defence market, bagging deals worth $17 Billion since 2007, challenging Russia's traditional hegemony.