K.V. Prasad

U.S. proposal approving sale is before Congress

NEW DELHI: India’s quest for the latest maritime reconnaissance aircraft has entered the last stage with the United States administration approving a $2.1-billion sale of eight sophisticated planes and sending the proposal to Congress for clearance.

The deal will have to wait for another 30 days before the lawmakers take it up for consideration. India signed the commercial agreement with Boeing this January and delivery of the first aircraft is expected by 2011.

These planes will replace the Russian TU-142, enabling the Navy to scan vast areas of the sea much faster.

Sources in the Navy, familiar with patrol operations, said the P8i would be equipped with the radar that could scan 200 km on either side, which means 400 km at any given time.

The radar was also capable of an anti-submarine sweep, giving a futuristic edge to the Navy, which has to contend with the underwater capabilities of Pakistan and China, the sources said.

The aircraft has dual capability utility in anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare and is similar to the P8A Poseidon that Boeing is developing for the U.S. Navy. This would entail features upgrade in the future being applied to the P8i, the sources said.

According to the plans, the aircraft will have a weapon package that includes long-range torpedoes and harpoon missiles.

Under the agreement, the manufacturer has to indigenously source 30 per cent of the value of the deal under “offsets.”

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