INDIAN NAVY LOOKS FOR NEW MARITIME RECCONNAISSANCE AIRCRAFT
By Bulbul Singh
The Indian Navy is planning to float a global tender soon for purchase of one dozen medium – range maritime reconnaissance/anti-submarine warfare (MR/ASW) aircraft to augment the Current eight Tupolev Tu – 142M Mod 4 and three upgraded IL-38SD MR/ASW aircraft.
Senior Indian Navy officials in New Delhi said formal request for proposal will be issued to Lockheed Martin, USA for upgraded P-3C+ Orion; Embraer of Brazil for P-99 ; Dassault Aviation, France for Falcon 900DX MPA, and Alenia Aerospazio of Italy for ATR-72ASW.
The technical evaluation will be carried out within six months after the proposals are received, said the Indian Navy officials, adding that deliveries will start after 36 months of finalization of the contract .
The technical specifications of the MR/ASW aircraft would include anti – surface warfare and ASW, search – and – rescue, target acquisition and intelligence gathering. The shortlisted aircraft will also be equipped with underwing pylons for carrying heavyweight torpedoes and anti – ship cruise missiles, and house an integrated electronic countermeasures suite for self – protection.
The Indian Navy would also ask for a preference of turbofans engines, instead of turboprop engines besides the aircraft should have a minimum crew compliment of seven, inclusive of a pilot, co–pilot, three mission system operators and two observers.
The Navy officials further pointed out that the other essential desires of the aircraft should be that the MR/ASW aircraft can be equipped with ELTA of Israel’s EL / M – 2022A radar, retractable FLIR turret, tactical data link and SATCOMS suit, or with THALES’ Amascos mission system including the Ocean Master radar.
The existing fleet of Tu–142M Mod 4s and IL–38SDs will remain operational till 2012 and 2020 but in the present conditions they are not capable to carryout effective and desired MR/ASW patrol sorties along the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.
The Indian navy planners point out that once India becomes the of the regional Proliferation Security Initiative for checking of vessels suspected of transporting or illicit weapons from the Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa right up to the entrance of the Malaca Straits there will be increased demand of understating maritime surveillance operations up to 1000 nautical miles from the Indian coastline.
At present the Indian Navy can only operate up to only 200 nautical miles with small fleet of Dornier – 228 – 201MPA aircraft, and with limited numbers of Searcher Mk2 unmanned aerial vehicles procured from Israel Aircraft Industries.
Last month Indian navy also received a detailed technical presentation of P-8A – MULTI-MISSION MARITIME AIRCRAFT (MMA) from United States as possible successor to the Tu-142 fleet.
The P – 8A, based on the B.737-800’s fuselage and the B.737 –900’s wing with raked wingtips, is being developed by a consortium of companies comprising Boeing Integrated Defence Systems, CFM International, Northrop – Grumman, Raytheon, and Smiths Aerospace. The P – 8A is due to enter service between 2010 and 2013.
Indian Navy officials further said that the US is also willing to give the aircraft which will be equipped with the upgraded APS-137D(V)5 maritime surveillance radar and signal intelligence SIGINT system developed by Raytheon.. The APS-137D(V)5 radar provides Synthetic Aperture Radar(SAR) mode capability for imaging, detection, classification and identification of stationary ships and small vessels and for coastal and overland surveillance, and high resolution Imaging Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) mode for imaging, detection, classification and tracking of surfaced submarines and small, fast moving vessels that operate in coastal waters. The SAR provides multiple resolution strip map and spot SAR operation, and allows high resolution for target identification, battle damage as