India’s fleet of Soviet-era maritime patrol aircraft has been upgraded, but it needs to be replaced. Indian naval responsibilities are growing, and the 2008 terrorist atrocities in Mumbai made it crystal-clear that control of their coasts was a necessity. Fortunately, they already had a competition underway. In December 2005, after an attempted buy of Lockheed Martin P-3s fell through, India’s navy had floated an RFP for at least 8 new sea control aircraft. Bids from a variety of contenders, including Lockheed Martin, were submitted in April 2007. Subsequent statements by India’s Admiral Prakash suggested that they could be looking for as many as 30 aircraft by 2020.
The plan had been for price negotiations to be completed in 2007, with first deliveries to commence within 48 months. India’s Ministry of Defence has extreme problems with announced schedules, but their existing fleet was wearing out, international requests for India’s maritime patrol help are rising, and Mumbai’s events provided an extra shove. By January 2009, India had picked its aircraft: the 737-derivative P-8i Neptune, a variant of the P-8A that’s readying for service as the P-3’s successor within the US Navy. DID discusses the geopolitical drivers, the current fleet, the known competitors, Boeing’s P-8i, and key contracts and events.