In January 2009, the wheels began turning on pair of follow-on buys covering short and medium range manned aircraft for India’s Navy and Coast Guard. That effort stalled out, restarted with a 2013 RFP.
India’s growing power is creating growing naval responsibility around the Indian Ocean, from the strategic chokepoint and shipping channel represented by Indonesia’s Straits of Malacca in the east, to anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and basing agreements with Madagascar in the west. Hence the January 2009 deal for 8-16 of Boeing’s 737-derived P-8i Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, which will replace Russian-built TU-142s as India’s long-range patrol aircraft.
Closer to home, however, India has its own long coastline to patrol, and neighbors like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan that represent existing or potential trouble spots along its borders. The P-8i will work in those problem areas, but less-expensive and shorter-range aircraft are needed to supplement their coverage. Inshore, and at strategic locations like Nicobar Isand, new Dornier Do-228NG aircraft, and UAVs like India’s Israeli-built Searcher and Heron UAVs, provide solid local coverage. In between, medium sized manned aircraft must fill their own niches in India’s Navy and its Coast Guard.