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By Bulbul Singh

15 May 11. The purchase of six Medium Range Maritime Reconnaissance (MRMR) aircraft by the Indian Coast Guard has run into rough weather.

The Russian Beriev BE-200 and the Canadian Bombardier Q-400 were shortlisted in the $440 million tender.

The procurement process has been put on hold, as the Indian Coast Guards has asked for additional features on the MRMR which were not part of the original requirement. The Indian defence ministry is still pondering whether to cancel the tender or ask the two contenders to add the new requirements and then compete.

The Indian Coast Guard needs the MRMR aircraft to sharpen its surveillance capabilities along the long coastline. Terrorists breached the surveillance cover in the 26/11 terror attacks.

The MRMR would primarily be used for Maritime Patrol, Anti-Surface Warfare (AsuW), Electronics Signals Intelligence (ELNIT), Electronic Surveillance Measures (ESM) and Communications Intelligence.

The MRMR will be used in tropical conditions prevailing in the Indian Ocean region and as such the aircraft, its engines and systems should be tropicalised and optimized for prolonged operations in salt-laden atmosphere.

The other requirements include the Maritime Patrol radar’s capability to provide 360 degree coverage and ability to track small targets like submarine periscopes, low flying aircraft/missiles and surface vessels with the ability to automatically track at least 50 targets.

Other essential requirements demand that the aircraft should be fitted with advanced Missile Approach Warning Systems (MAWS) and Laser Warning Systems.

The Indian Navy is also in the process of buying six MRMRs, tenders for which were floated late last year.

Sources said, “Even the MRMR purchase for the Indian Navy could be affected with the latest development in the procurement of MRMRs for the Coast Guard.

The Indian Navy is looking for MRMRs which are sturdy, have a reliable airframe, two fuel-efficient engines, integrated advanced avionics incorporating ability for detection, identification and classification of all types of surface targets. The detection and tracking capability against air targets is one of the essential requirements.

The Indian Navy contracted for 12 Boeing P8I Long Range Maritime Aircraft (LRMR) worth $3.1 billion in two phases beginning January 2009 with an additional order in August 2010 for four more.

Indian Coast Guard officials say, “There is a requirement for at least 20 reconnaissance aircraft of various sizes to meet multiple threats from sea, such as piracy, combating illegal immigration, smuggling and trafficking.

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